Your Social Media Profile Can Make the Difference Between Being Accepted or Rejected to Harvard
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According to Kaplan Test Prep's most recent survey of college admissions officers, more than two-thirds of colleges (68 percent) say that it’s “fair game” for them to visit applicants’ social media profiles like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to help them decide who gets in -- despite the fact that less than one-third actually engage in the practice. It also appears that students agree. In a separate Kaplan survey of over 900 high school students found that 70 percent consider social media profiles “fair game” for admissions officers evaluating applicants - an increase from 58 percent in 2014.
I reached out to Yariv Alpher, Kaplan Test Prep's executive director of research, through the company's social media manager. Here's what Alpher had to say: “What we found remarkable about the survey results is how colleges and applicants have come to a meeting of the minds regarding social media’s role in the admissions process. It runs counterintuitive to teens’ value of privacy, or at least the sense that many adults have about teens’ value of privacy.
"While high percentages of both groups consider social media to be ‘fair game,’ we think it may be for different reasons. Colleges may consider it fair game because it allows them to see the ‘unscripted’ applicant, during an admissions process that is fairly scripted. It lets admissions officers see something extra and unfiltered. Teens, on the other hand, may think what they post will have no negative effect, and some actively use social media to their advantage, seeing it as an opportunity to showcase accomplishments and talents, and build their personal brands."
Last year, Harvard rescinded the acceptances of about a dozen incoming freshmen because of offensive memes they discovered on Facebook. A Bowdoin College applicant who tweeted disparaging comments during a campus information session got himself nixed from consideration.
35 percent of college recruiters said that, when checking up on a student’s online presence, they found something that negatively impacted an applicant’s chances of getting in.
According to the same Kaplan survey mentioned above, the percentage of college admissions officers using social media for admissions criteria went down from 40 percent in 2015, to 35 percent in 2016, to 29 percent in 2017. Students seem to be making it more difficult for college admission personnel to check them out on social media. One could argue that the reason this is happening is that individuals in the college admissions age range are leaving open platforms like Facebook and Twitter and switching to closed ones like Snapchat and WhatsApp.
I view this situation as an opportunity for high school students to leverage their social media with a greater chance of success now, since so many of their peers are social media “hiding” on non-viewable platforms. If I had a child who was going to college in the next few years, I’d have them posting frequently, in an image-enhancing way, on open social platforms like Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram (not stories) and Twitter. You never know if the admission officer from the college of your kid’s dreams will see some social post that will make the difference for acceptance.