Monday, September 2, 2013

Are colleges looking at your social media profiles?

If you are a high school student - or the parent of one - you may have seen warnings that suggest you should clean up your online profile before applying to college.  You may have been told to remove unflattering photos and posts that suggest you have been partying or participating in pranks or illegal activities.  Do colleges look at your online profile when considering you for admission?  It turns out they probably won't.

Consider this from Todd Weaver, Senior Associate at Strategies for College, Inc.  :

"Every admissions rep I've spoken to over the past few years has simply laughed when I ask if they have time to review a potential student's social media sites. They are so busy - typically spending 5-6 minutes reading an application - that they have no time to chase down Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites that Teens might be on.

This is a "scare tactic" article that pops up every year. Admissions officers will not voluntarily chase this information down.

Granted, if a college has to go to it's waitlist and there are two similar candidates, then, and only then, might they possibly have time to look at a student's social media site."

And this from Christine VanDeVelde,  Author of College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step:

"I agree with Todd. We have heard the same thing in talking with admission deans. The exceptions: 1. Scholarship students; 2. Athletes; and 3. When a student has made a claim that the school is seeking to verify by Googling the student."

Ms. VanDeVelde is referring to high profile scholarships (the ones with names), not the basic financial aid packages most students receive.  Furthermore, a college probably won't check to confirm that you were really the president of the German club, but will check if you make an unusual claim:  "I wrote a best-seller."  "I hold a patent." or "I was named ambassador to Andorra."

This is not to say that you shouldn't be careful about how you present yourself online. It's not too early to take basic precautions about what you post or tweet.  However, unless you fall into one of the categories mentioned above, you can scratch "clean up my profile" off your college application to-do list.

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