Social media profiles could affect admissions

You might want to think twice before uploading those pictures from last weekend to Facebook.

According to a recent annual survey of college and university admission officers, higher education institutions are increasingly using social media profiles to review prospective students.

The survey, released by Kaplan Test Prep last week, found that 35 percent of admissions officers discovered information via Google or Facebook that damaged prospective students’ chances of acceptance — up from 12 percent last year.

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Kaplan surveyed 350 admissions officers from the nation’s top 500 colleges and universities. According to the survey, 27 percent of admissions officers use Google while 26 percent use Facebook to review applicants.

UNC’s undergraduate admissions office does not use social media to review prospective students because of the sheer number of applicants, said Barbara Polk, senior associate director of undergraduate admissions.

Each application undergoes a minimum of two reviews while 40 percent undergo three or more reviews, she said.

“We have not even talked about looking at it as an official process,” she said. “Might that change in 10 years or five years? It’s possible.”

While UNC admissions officers don’t turn to social media for evaluating applicants, the office occasionally receives photos of recently admitted students in compromising situations. Every spring, the office receives three to five packages with such photos from anonymous sources, she said.

“Maybe it’s from another student who was in a jealous rivalry,” Polk said.

But the office gives the students in question a chance to explain themselves before taking definitive action.

“Anybody might put something on Facebook that’s meant to be fun or shocking, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the student’s represented there,” she said.

Students should also be aware of what they post online because prospective employers often look at social media, said Ray Angle, director of University Career Services.

According to a survey by Career Builder, 37 percent of employers use social networks to screen potential job candidates.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, which connects college career services with employers, encourages businesses not to use social media to research employees due to legal reasons, Angle said.

But he said he excludes LinkedIn because it’s professionally focused, adding that LinkedIn is regularly used by recruiters to find individuals with specific skill sets.

“It’s inappropriate to look up potential employees (using Facebook),” he said. “Just don’t post anything you wouldn’t share with your family. If you don’t want your grandmother to see it, don’t put it there.”

Although colleges and universities are increasingly using social media to review potential students, the biggest eyesores on applications are still low SAT or ACT scores and a low GPA, said Jieun Choe, executive director of Kaplan’s college admissions and K-12 programs.

Social media can also be a positive factor in college applications, rather than just a negative, Choe said.

College recruiters often use social profiles to find potential students. Evidence of passions, extracurricular activities and achievements actually help applications, she said.

“Maybe it’s a picture of you scoring the winning goal, or sharing your hobbies, but it brings multiple dimensions to your application,” Choe said.

Contact the desk editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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