Good, Clean Fun: the Admissions Process and the Internet

by Vault Education Editors | May 06, 2009

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Thought you were safe to post your body shotpictures for another four years? Think again. Employers browsingthrough social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace is old news,but some 2009 spring-breakers will be disappointed to discover thatcollege admissions officers have caught wind of the trend as well.

The bad news

A recent Kaplan study found that 10 percent ofadmissions officers at 500 top colleges acknowledged utilizing thesesites when gathering information about applicants. Of those, overone-third (38 percent) said they were "negatively affected" by whatthey found, and only a quarter (25 percent) of the student profiles hada positive effect.

Admissions officers have varying outlooks on theissue--some take the "kids will be kids" stance, and instruct theirstaff to avoid browsing. Others see the medium and its content for whatit is: a public forum.

Luckily, unlike your SAT scores, this is oneaspect of your application that is very easy to change. Set yourprofile privacy settings on high, keep the trash-talking low and trashany picture taken after 1:00 a.m. altogether. As you begin visitingcolleges and considering the fall application process, "friends'"fingers can become quite slippery with the forward button.

The good news

But Facebook and college don't have to be mutuallyexclusive. In fact, the website is gaining popularity in the admissionsrealm for recruiters and students alike. A recent TIME magazinearticle described Facebook groups for accepted students at variousschools. The groups were formed to help these students connect anddecide which school to attend, as well as bond with some possibleclassmates before they arrive on campus. Some schools even have theirown Facebook and MySpace profiles, offering admissions videos, campusnews, upcoming deadlines and other information for prospectivestudents. By "friending" a school, you can receive alerts and contactadmissions officers with any questions. It's a great way to stay intouch.

And social networking sites aren't just forstudents to connect with other students and school administrators.Facebook's new application, MyBioFlick, acts as a college recruiter'ssearch engine and allows admissions officers to scan profiles forspecialized talents and skills, reaching high school students acrossthe country and world. So while including all your inside jokes fromyour high school basketball team is a bit TMI, there's no need towhittle your profile down to the bare bones. Keep highlights from yourbasketball experiences, and if you really like ballet, post that, too.

As long as you mind your manners, utilizing socialnetworks throughout the admissions process can prove to be an enormousasset for finding friends, touring virtual campuses and maybe evencatching the eye of a school administrator or coach you didn't know waslooking. When considering what to put on your profile, just askyourself: do I want the dean of admissions at my dream school to knowthis about me? If the answer's no, take it down. But if the answer'syes, feel free to post photos, links to related sites and join anyrelated groups on the network. No one can sing your praises better thanyou.

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