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 (“They Loved Your G.P.A., Then They Saw Your Tweets”) depicted the reality of social media affecting college admissions. One high school senior attending a 2013 presentation at Bowdoin College was not admitted after she tweeted inappropriate comments during the event.
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.” 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, said, “[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. revealed that excessive posting, vulgar language, crude pictures, and sexist or racist comments all factor negatively into an applicant’s chances.
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 (appropriate) content that relates to their interests.