When colleges and universities look for potential students during their admissions process, administrators are usually looking at test scores, GPAs and other grades. They are now increasingly looking at social media sites of potential students.
Results from Kaplan Test Prep’s 2019 college admissions officers find that 36 percent of the nearly 300 admissions officers polled visit applicants’ social media profiles like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube to learn more about them — up from 25 percent last year and following a three year decline in the practice since the high mark of 40 percent in Kaplan’s 2015 survey.
Of admissions officers who have checked out an applicant’s social media footprint, about one in five — 19 percent — say they do it “often,” significantly higher than the 11 percent who said they checked “often” in Kaplan’s 2015 survey, according to the survey.
Of the admissions officers who say they check social media to learn more about their applicants, 38 percent say that what they found has had a positive impact on prospective students,” according to the survey. On the other side, 32 percent say that what they found had a negative impact. Both of these figures have fluctuated slightly over the past few years.
“In tracking the role of social media in the college admissions process over the past 11 years, what we’re seeing is that while admissions officers have become more ideologically comfortable with the idea of visiting applicants’ social media profiles as part of their decision-making process, in practice, the majority still don’t actually do it,” Kaplan Test Prep College Prep Programs Director Sam Pritchard said. “They often tell us that while it shouldn’t be off limits, they are much more focused on evaluating prospective students on the traditional admissions factors like an applicant’s GPA, SAT and ACT scores, letters of recommendation, admissions essay, and extracurriculars.”
According to the survey, although less than half of admissions officers visit applicants’ social media profiles, 59 percent — slightly higher than last year’s 57 percent — consider it “fair game,” while only 41 percent consider it “an invasion of privacy that shouldn’t be done.”
College applicants are notably more accepting of this practice than admissions officers, according to the survey. In a separate Kaplan survey completed last year, 70 percent of college applicants said they believe it’s “fair game” for college admissions officers to check social media profiles.
“We continue to believe that applicants’ social media content remains a wildcard in the admissions process, with what they post possibly being the tipping point of whether they or not they’re admitted to the college of their choice,” Pritchard said. “Our consistent advice to teens is to remain careful and strategic about what they decide to share. In 25 years, you’ll definitely remember where you graduated college from, but you’ll unlikely remember how many people liked that photo of what you did over winter break.”
Lizza Trenkle, Hill College student services vice president, said more colleges and universities might have different reasons as to why they would use social media to review prospective students.
“It’s not uncommon for athletics to review the social media of a prospective athlete and/or selective admission programs,” Trenkle said. “However, as an open admission institution, this is not Hill College’s policy.”
As a public two-year community college, she said Hill College is committed to the concept that their college be an open door to learning with an open admissions process.
“With this goal in mind, we extend an educational opportunity to students of all ages who can profit from instruction,” she said. “Every effort is made to provide equal access to the educational opportunities offered at Hill College without regard to race, creed, color, age, sex, national origin or disability.”
Enga Almeida, Southwestern Adventist University enrollment vice president, said looking at social media of prospective students is declining at many universities because of the sheer volume of applications.
“Some college counselors encourage a student to submit a link to their social media, particularly if they want to complement their application by showcasing their involvement in the community, and any skills or interests they may have,” she said. “Social media used well can demonstrate that.
“Why colleges review social media depends on admission policies and goals. Are they looking for red flags that could cause safety or campus issues, or are they looking for that one thing that sets two otherwise equal candidates apart?”
At SWAU, they don’t review social media pages, she said, and believes in the holistic approach to the admissions process.
“Our admission director and enrollment staff take time to personally talk with the prospective students, getting to know them, their goals and interests,” she said. “We feel this personal interaction is the best way to determine if Southwestern Adventist University is a good match for the prospective student.”
For information about the survey, visit kaptest.com.