In 2008, Kaplan Test Prep, a website providing high school test prep and admission help, began a survey tracking colleges who checked applicants’ social networking pages to learn more about them. Ten percent of schools reported viewing a student’s Facebook or social networking page.
“It seems colleges, as they become more competitive, are looking at different factors when considering students,” Associate Principal Jan Carlson said. “Colleges can do whatever they want, they can make that choice to determine which students will make up the best freshman class.”
On March 9, the Miramonte newsletter sent out a message which stated “Warning: Admissions Officers Check Out Students. College-bound students, beware: College admissions officers may be looking you up on Facebook.”
“It sounds like this is a current practice that is becoming more and more common,” Carlson said.
Enclosed in the letter was a link to Admission School, a website giving “news, advice, and information for the college bound.” Its article’s focus was a summary of Kaplan Test Prep’s 2011 Survey of college admissions officers.
“If you are cursing on there, or putting people down, I think I’d want to know,” Principal Adam Clark said. “I think it could have an effect on whether or not I admit someone to a school or whether or not I give them a job.”
On Sept. 21, 2011, Kaplan released the continued research of the 2008 survey.
The article is titled “Kaplan Test Prep Survey Finds Growing Acceptance in the Practice of Exploring Applicants’ Digital Trails,” and further explains the increased number of college admissions officers using the Internet to look into prospective students.
“I think it really does paint a picture of how somebody is, and I think that if I were to let someone into college, and maybe they were on the fence, I would want to know what type of person they were,” Clark said. “Anyone can say anything in an interview or in an essay, but what type of person are you?”
After interviewing college admission officers at the nation’s top schools, the survey stated that 85 percent of the 359 colleges surveyed use Facebook to recruit students. Twenty percent of schools reported “Google-ing” them, and 24 percent had gone to a Facebook or social networking page of a prospective student. Within three years, there was a 14 percent rise in cyber searching, and a 12 percent increase in the discovery of negative information that later affected the student’s’ application.
“There are some really hateful and mean things that can be said on people’s Facebook pages, on people’s Twitter pages, through text messages, and picture mail,” Clark said. “I think that sometimes young people don’t fully grasp that once they put something online, their data footprint is there and will be there forever.”
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Cox Communications’ 2007 annual poll, the large majority of teens (71 percent) have established online profiles. However, high school administration should not be students’ greatest worries.
“We actually couldn’t even get on Facebook for some years, but as administrators, Facebook is unblocked from our machine, and that’s only in case of some emergencies,” Clark said. “Unless we are friends with someone on Facebook or have that person’s password, it doesn’t really do us any good.”
“I know there was a rumor around that we had an alter ego profile, that was absolutely not true,” Clark said. “At Miramonte, we do nothing on Facebook.”
According to NCMEC, 47 percent of teens aren’t worried about others using their personal info in ways they don’t want, and 49 percent are unconcerned about posting personal info online which might negatively affect their future.
“It’s common practice for teens now to put everything out there,” Carlson said. “And sometimes I think it’s perhaps too revealing.”
“It was very hard to ask a girl out on a date from your kitchen phone, it wasn’t as easy then to just send a text message,” Clark said. “I bring that up because I could see where it would be easy to say something negative about somebody or to make a threat to somebody because it’s just typing some words. It’s just that kind of comparison.”
A majority of teens (58 percent) don’t think posting photos or other personal info on social networking sites is unsafe.
“My advice to students on a social network would be to always think that somebody, whether it be a parent, an older friend, or a teacher could view it,” Clark said. “If you’re on a social network, it is not 100 percent private. It can always come back to you. I would just use caution and be positive about it. Be who you are.”
Education consulting organization Eduventures took a poll of nearly 11,000 students to demonstrate the implications of college’s recruitment strategies. Forty-one percent of students reported using Facebook to research and “like” schools.
“I think I would “like” a college I want to go to, just so they can get an idea of who I am,” sophomore Kayla Sigaroudi said.
“Ninety-nine point nine percent of our students are good kids,” Clark said. “They shouldn’t put themselves in compromising positions where the wrong image can be construed from something they’re doing.”