How What You Do on Facebook Can Affect Your Chances of Getting into College

This blog post is provided by the Unigo Expert Network, a group of top education experts from across the U.S. answering questions submitted by students and parents about college admissions and succeeding after high school. To have your questions answered visit www.unigo.com/expertquestions 

“Can what I post on Facebook affect my chances of getting accepted?”  – Derrick L., New York, NY

Listen to the voice of Reason. Francine Block, Founder, FEBlock.com

Listen to what Thomas Reason, then Associate Director of Admissions at U.W. Madison, posted a few years ago concerning MySpace: "Be careful what you put out there in the public eye. We at Madison will not go looking for it, but if it ends up in our lap, it will be hard to ignore. Exposing oneself or being passed out with one eyebrow shaved off doesn't make a ‘real’ good impression of one’s character." He continued with, "I think it is also worth mentioning that a lot of strange and nasty things go on. Example: Other vindictive students/parents forwarding things on (to colleges) that they've found out about others. Yes, it's nasty out there."

Like most technologies, Facebook can work for or against you. Lynette Matthews, Director, The College Planning Center

The majority of college admissions officers do not have the time to include an exploration of Facebook and other social media in their decision criteria.  However, there are situations when colleges may review online activities such as: Applications for prestigious college scholarships; recruited student athletes may receive a review of online activity by the coaching staff; students interested in selective programs such as honors colleges within a university; students that referenced blogs, videos, portfolios or other online projects in their applications; and applications for campus jobs, including tour guides and resident advisors. Be smart and make sure your online presence represents you well.

Would you put it on a billboard? Nola Lynch, Owner, Northwest College Search

As you transition to adulthood, your online persona (including your email alias) will become potentially more public and definitely more important. A 2008 Kaplan survey of admissions officers found that 10% of them had looked at applicants’ social networking profiles and that at least one school had rejected an applicant based on statements he made online. Unless something bothers them about an application, admissions readers usually won’t search on your name, but employers often do. Yet you are unlikely ever to find out if that party photo got you rejected, so keep your online identity clean.

Many colleges use social media in the admissions process. Jeffrey Makris, Director of College Counseling, High School Economics

A 2008 NACAC survey revealed that 85% of admissions offices use social media to recruit students, and 17% reported that they use social networks to research students. I recall an incident where an applicant’s blog postings contributed to the revocation of [the student’s] acceptance. Several admissions counselors have revealed to me that they or their interns review applicants’ social media content. This is a step not all colleges have the time to take, but things are moving in this direction. To be safe, use the “grandma rule”…if you wouldn’t want grandma to see it, don’t put it on Facebook.

If there’s any question, just don’t post it! Janet Elfers, Sr. Class Counselor, Mariemont High School

In my experiences knowing college admission counselors, I can assure you, they’re way too busy to spend time scouring social networking sites. On the other hand, we also know how rapidly and widely information travels. It is very possible your behaviors on these sites could become known to your college, even if colleges don’t go looking. So, why take the chance? If you have ANY hesitation as to the appropriateness of material you have posted, take it down! What gauge can you use? Try assuming your college will see your post. If that will embarrass you, don’t post it.

Get the full story from 35 more experts -- including the VP of the College Board, Dean of Admissions from University of Illinois and more -- at www.unigo.com/expertnetwork. To send your question to our experts, visit www.unigo.com/expertquestions.

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