Report: Social media can negatively impact admission chances

The survey does not apply to MU, which uses published requirements.
Cait Campbell / Graphic Designer

Status updates, tweets, pictures on Instagram and blogs can negatively impact a college applicant, according to a survey by Kaplan Test Prep that polled 350 admissions officers from 500 colleges and universities.

MU does not use Facebook and other social media sites as factors for admission, senior associate director of admissions Chuck May said.

MU’s requirements for automatic admission are published, May said. Admission officers look at core courses, standardized test scores and class rank.

“We don’t use Facebook or any other social media sites,” May said.

May said does not foresee admissions factors changing.

“I don’t see us using any social media sites (in the future) to admit or deny students,” May said.

Though MU does not utilize social media sites, other colleges and universities are. Thirty-five percent of surveyed admissions officers reported looking up an applicant on Google or Facebook negatively impacted the applicant, according to a news release from Kaplan. Last year, 12 percent of admission officers said social media negatively impacted an applicant.

Offenses cited by admissions officers included essay plagiarism, vulgarities in blogs, alcohol consumption in photos, things that made them “wonder” and “illegal activities,” according to the release.

“I think that colleges should check social media sites and consider them as an admission factor because social media such as Facebook can give an admission officer a good idea about the character of that person,” MU freshman Zack Girard said.

To put the statistics in perspective, social media is only a factor in the admissions process for 35 percent of those surveyed, Kaplan spokesperson Russell Schaffer said. A vast majority are not looking up applicants on Facebook — only 26 percent reported looking up an applicant on Facebook, and 27 percent reported searching for an applicant on Google.

“An applicant’s digital trail is a wild card in the admissions process,” Schaffer said. “The traditional college factors will remain the same.”

Kaplan has surveyed admission officers for nine years to gather insight into issues and trends, Schaffer said. In 2008, the company began measuring social media trends.

“We were noticing what an importance social media has played in our lives,” Schaffer said. “We wanted to see the effect this would have on the college admission process.”

The recent jump seen in this year’s survey could be attributed to the multiple channels through which personal information can be posted, Schaffer said. Social media used to mean just Facebook, but it now also encompasses Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and Google.

“Think about how much has changed,” Schaffer said. “People do not keep a paper diary but blog and tweet.”

Schaffer stressed a couple of tips for college students looking into the graduate admissions process.

“Check your digital trail and keep it clean,” Schaffer said.

Though the survey just published does not necessarily apply to graduate schools, the results of a graduate school survey will be released later, he said.

After the hard work students do during high school and college, the last thing someone wants to happen is to be denied by a top school or program choice because of something on the Internet, Schaffer said.

“The Internet has a long memory,” Schaffer said. “And it’s okay not to share everything online.”

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