Do Colleges Check Facebook?

College admissions and social media: Can Social Network sites affect your chances of admission?

In the ultra-competitive world of college admissions, this question comes up time and time again…

Do colleges look at Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites for information about applicants?

In a word, yes.

According to a Kaplan survey back in 2008, 10% of college admissions officers – from 500 of the most highly selective universities – said that they use social networks like Facebook and MySpace to evaluate prospective students.

A quarter of the applicants got a bump up due to their positive Facebook pages. 38%, however, suffered from it.

One admissions officer even said, anonymously, that one prospective student was turned down specifically for trashing the school in a Facebook post after talking about it while on a tour of a prospective college.

Of course, that was 2008 – two years ago and you can bet the trend towards greater monitoring has only increased. As one admissions officer said – social networks are public spaces. Anything posted in those public spaces is fair game.

So, what should you be wary of?

What Can Hurt Your Chances

  • Anything illegal. For example, if you’re showing a picture of yourself drinking illegally. How bad this could hurt you depends on the individual photo, your particular admissions officer, and how close to the cusp you are – but you’re certainly not doing yourself any favors.
  • Anything salacious. Some colleges have tried to expel students for appearing in softcore magazines like Playboy, or getting on the Girls Gone Wild bus. If your MySpace photos are of questionable taste – well, they may try to nip the problem in the bud by expelling you.
  • Anything offensive. This is more serious than perhaps anything else. Colleges are melting pots – they have students from varied backgrounds, cultures, and races all living together. If your posts show a racist tinge, a homophobic bend, or misogynistic leanings, you’re already on your way to the rejection pile.

How You Can Protect Yourself

First – don’t get too worked up. Unless you’ve got some highly objectionable content on your page, you’re unlikely to be hurt by it.

Even those officers who investigate on social networks frequently admit that they can’t do it for all students – there are simply too many applicants.

That said, you never know if you’ll be searched, or what standards your particular officer will have. Given that many searches are to weed through applicants on the bubble, you can’t be too safe.

Here are a few things that will help keep you safe with regard to Facebook and college admissions…

  • Set your profile to ‘private.’ Only allow friends to see it – at least during your application period.
  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. You have no idea how that profile will be looking at and sharing your information.
  • Untag unflattering photos. If you can’t bear to lose the photo from your collection, at least make sure you’ve got the privacy level set at its highest.
  • Ask friends to take down unflattering photos of you. These days, if you’ve got your privacy settings correctly set, most mess-ups come from leaks within your network. Friends who aren’t as careful with their information top that list.
  • Ask your parents – or, better yet, grandparents – to review your profile. If you’re scared to have them look through it – it might be too racy. If they see nothing objectionable – you’re in the clear.

Lastly, if you’re confident that your profile paints you in a good light – let’s say it highlights community service, extracurricular activities, and good deeds – then don’t make it private. Broadcast it to the world. In your information section, make sure you’re mentioning all the good things you’re doing – while leaving out anything that might cast a bad light.

Remember, 25% of social network profiles wound up strengthening an applicant’s chances. If you’ve got a great profile, you can use that as another arrow in your quiver.

To your college success,

Scott Weingold
Publisher, CollegeMadeSimple.com

Related Article:

Social Media and College Admissions

How to Turn Facebook into your College Admissions Advantage

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1 Comment

bruce BroomellOctober 16th, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I would like to send my daughter to college, but look at the price.

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.