Social media’s role in college admissions

Sydney Czyzon, Features Editor

Nowadays, social media plays a prominent role in the lives of teenagers. While approximately 95% of American teens have access to online activities, 81% of these adolescents use some kind of social media, according to a 2012 study completed by the Pew Internet Project.

With more students attending college than ever before, the admissions process has become increasingly competitive. Since an overwhelming amount of juveniles have taken advantage of online outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, admissions officers have become interested in the social media footprint of prospective students.

A New York Times article entitled, “They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets,” depicted the reality of social media affecting college admissions. One high school senior who was attending a 2013 presentation at Bowdoin College in Maine was not admitted after she tweeted inappropriate comments during the event. Even though her academic record was not impressive anyway, the school denied her a chance after reading her irresponsible posts.

The same article provided more important insight for students. “Other admissions officials said they did not formally prohibit the practice. In fact, they said, admissions officers did look at online material about applicants on an ad hoc basis,” the article read. Students can be searched online randomly, and there is no way to predict whether or not your social media will be monitored by colleges.

Lenny Libenzon, the guidance department chairman at Brookline High School in Massachusetts, articulated, “[Students] imagine admissions officers are old professors. But we tell them a lot of admissions officers are very young and technology-savvy.” After all, 31% of college admissions officers who participated in a 2013 Kaplan survey admitted to viewing applicants’ social media pages. Of these, 30% said that their searches had negatively impacted students’ chances of admission.

Student-athletes are especially affected by colleges’ social media searches. Due to the amount of scholarships for athletes, recruiters must investigate all aspects of an applicant’s persona. Although an individual may be talented on the court, one’s performance and personal application is not all colleges see.

A few years ago, Fairport High School basketball coach Scott Fitch was shocked after a college recruiter decided against one of his best players. In an article by Jeff DiVeronica, Fitch revealed that the cut was due to the student’s unimpressive Twitter account. When asked about the student’s Twitter posts, Fitch released, “He used some vulgar language. There was some partying stuff.” Even though this seems minor, the article accurately explains, “In the most competitive age for scholarship money, kids can’t afford to take the chance.”

Old Dominion University’s recruiting coordinator, Ron Whitcomb Jr., disclosed his red flags when it comes to students’ social media accounts. He expressed, “Sixteen posts a day? He was on social media too much. Is he spending enough time on important stuff?” He also revealed that vulgar language, crude pictures, and sexist or racist comments all factor negatively into an applicant’s chances – even if it’s something that you retweet or share.

To increase the chance of college admission, students should avoid questionable, suggestive, or controversial posts that can be interpreted negatively. IvyWise, a website for students, provides adolescents with advice to help them manage their online activity. The site advises that teens de-tag themselves from problematic pictures and that they post content that relates to their interests.

It is essential for high-schoolers to acknowledge the impact that their online presence can have on their future. With the highly-competitive nature of admissions, and the numerous scholarship opportunities available, adolescents must pay attention to their online trail. Students with polished social media accounts have an advantage over those who fail to post responsibly; therefore, it is vital for teens to clean up their social media before it’s too late.