Make sure that your social media chan­nels make you look good — impor­tant peo­ple are prob­a­bly check­ing your pro­file.

3 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.

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.

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“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.

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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.

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