How College Admissions Uses Social Media to Evaluate Applicants

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Did you know that around 350 admissions officers at the country’s top 500 colleges use Facebook, Google searches and other social media sites to evaluate high school juniors’ and seniors’ applications? A leading test-prep firm, Kaplan, polled hundreds of college admissions employees and found the following data:

  • Admissions staff found up to 35 percent of their searches uncovered negative information affecting their perceptions of applicants.
  • Negative data affecting student applicants included the following problems:
    • Essay plagiarism
    • Vulgarities
    • Photos showing applicants consuming alcohol
    • Statements or photos involving “illegal activities”

As more college admissions staff use social media to evaluate applicants, high school juniors and seniors must be careful what they put on their pages. Entries that many high school students think are “cool” or “cute” create serious concerns about their applications to top colleges and universities.

Pay attention to your social media comments and pictures, because admissions’ evaluation of you as a potential student depends on their perception of you. Similar to evaluation criteria they use by examining your application essays and observing you at interviews, admissions staff examines your social media pages to make decisions about your character.

Your social media content can make the difference between receiving an acceptance or rejection letter from the schools you absolutely, positively want to attend. Learn what is acceptable social media content and what is not. The increased risk of rejection is not worth posting inappropriate statements or photos on your social media pages.

Most Widely Used Platforms

According to Academia.edu, colleges— including community colleges— favor three common social media platforms for admissions evaluations: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This data comes from a study by the University of Arizona, which also displayed that 100 percent of community colleges surveyed use some type of social media, while 98 percent of them have a Facebook page. Colleges and universities use social media for more than admissions, as they also employ this technology to communicate with current students, dispensing information important to the student body.

Social Media as Recruiting Tools

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) colleges are adopting the path taken by many employers, using social media to recruit potential students. Just as high school juniors and seniors must elaborate on their personal positives, colleges and universities concentrate on emphasizing their brands, campuses and specialties to recruit the best students.

Online Schools

The growing popularity of online schools has generated even more widespread use of social media to evaluate applicants. Whether schools grant undergraduate or graduate degrees, certificates for specific career study or even high school diplomas, their evaluations have the same goal: accept students that project to perform well.

For example, Penn Foster, which offers accredited degrees, certificates and high school diplomas, uses social media extensively to evaluate and recruit the type of students they want. Their self-promotion includes a well-designed Penn Foster Pinterest site, highlighting a wide variety of their specialty major courses of study.

Like other schools, they also perform web searches of applicants to learn what potential students publish on social media pages. Online schools rely on these evaluations to help select applicants who fit their profiles of students who exhibit the maturity to succeed in completing a web-based curriculum.

High school juniors and seniors must fill their social media pages with the following, at a minimum.

  • Personal academic strengths
  • Meaningful extra curricular activities
  • Scholastic awards and achievements
  • Pictures that display their maturity and commitment to excel

Applicants who properly present themselves as serious about their current and future academic careers will receive higher evaluations— and more acceptance letters.

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