Tweets, Instagram pictures, Facebook statuses, Vine posts–social media is increasingly present in young adults’ lives. So much so, in fact, that social media is seeping into the academic and business realms.
Universities are starting to take note and some schools even consider applicants’ online presences during the college admission process.
Seattle University-bound students can rest easy, though. For the sake of practicality, the Seattle U Admissions Office doesn’t review social media to evaluate applicants.
Associate Director of Admissions Andrea Frangi said that since the school gets over 7,000 applications, the admissions office simply just doesn’t have the time or resources to formally research every applicant’s social media presence.
However, if a student provides a link to something relevant, such as an online portfolio or a blog, the counselor may look into it. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are not on an admissions counselor’s checklist.
For Seattle U to join the ranks of schools checking out applicants’ Facebook profiles, the admissions office would have to grow significantly and, according to Frangi, social media consideration is nowhere in the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, monitoring online interactions is becoming a reality for many college applicants across the country. A recent New York Times article cited research from Kaplan Test Prep that showed 31 percent of the 381 college admissions officers interviewed have looked into online profiles to learn more about applicants. While this is 5 percent higher than last year’s responses, the number of admissions officers who said that an applicant’s online presence has actually hurt their chances has fallen from 35 percent to 30 percent since last year.
Christine Brown from Kaplan Test Prep told The New York Times that “most colleges don’t have formal policies about admissions officers supplementing students’ files with their own online research” and that “if colleges find seemingly troubling material online, they may not necessarily notify the applicants involved.”
Kaplan also found that 22 percent of students surveyed had taken on pseudonyms in social media, 26 percent untagged themselves from pictures, and 12 percent deleted their accounts.
Sophomore Alex Szymula reported that, though he didn’t have a Facebook profile until after he came to Seattle U, he definitely censors himself online to be cautious, unless it’s a site that practices anonymity.
Szymula also said that he could understand why a school might look into the social media profiles of certain students who hold leadership positions, for the most part he wondered, “Why do you care?”
Frangi worried not that schools care, but that that care would uncover dishonest information or information taken out of context: “You don’t necessarily get the complete picture with a photograph or with a 140 character tweet…they’re maybe taken out of context,” Frangi said.
While admissions does regular searches to see what’s being said about Seattle U, they aren’t checking up on students.
“We’re not trolling for information on the Internet for students [because] you could go down a rabbit hole so quickly and it could be so time-consuming and it could also be misleading information,” said Frangi.
Frangi also said that looking at social media profiles might be unfair since she’s not sure that everyone understands the implications of their online activity yet. There could also be content online from applicants’ younger years, before they were mature enough to really be held accountable for their digital selves.
Freshman Carlee Bock said that while she wasn’t aware of any schools she applied to screening her online, she was aware of the possibility.
“I definitely went through and cleaned up my Facebook prior to [applying to schools]. And when I was applying for a job, I guess I did the same thing,” said Bock.
Generally, Bock understands why schools would feel the need to peruse applicants’ profiles and thinks it’s justified.
“I think it’s fair. If that’s something you’re putting out there for the world to see and, I mean if you have the option of putting it under a private profile and if you don’t do that, then you’re giving consent to anyone for anything you put on the Internet to be shared,” Bock said.
However, Bock did say that it’s risky because not everything on your profile is something you posted.
Freshman Emma Foster said she also practices awareness when using social media, but thinks that it’s a good thing colleges look into social media profiles in the sense that it teaches the reality of the impact of an online presence.
However, Foster also said that judging an applicant based on their Facebook profile is shaky, especially with teenagers.
Fellow freshman Rachael Rodriguez said her parents warned her about posting very candidly on social media sites, and she set her profile to private just in case.
Bock proposed that high schools stress to their graduating students the importance of maintaining a level of decency online.
So tweet away, Redhawks, but keep in mind that though you’ve already made it through the admissions process, your entrance into the professional world may require online decency.