More university admissions offices than ever before have added a new tool to their evaluation process: Facebook.
According to studies conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, over a quarter of colleges today monitor prospective students’ Facebook pages during the application process.
In 2008, only one in 10 admissions officers reported monitoring applicants’ social networking pages. Now, 26 percent of administrations use Facebook to look up university hopefuls; 27 percent use Google.
Kaplan representative Colin Gruenwald said the survey began nine years ago when thousands of students were curious about how their digital footprints affect the admissions process.
According to the survey, reports of negatively-impacting findings on networking profiles include essay plagiarism, vulgarity, alcohol consumption, and various “illegal activity”.
Admissions officers also reported miscellaneous discoveries that “made them wonder.”
“They’re trying to find out who students really are,” Gruenwald said. “Because social media is so engrained in today’s culture, many people reveal a side of themselves on a Facebook page that wasn’t shown on paper.”
The 2012 survey also suggests a huge impact on this past year’s application season; 35 percent of admissions officers reported finding information that negatively affected students’ acceptance chances.
Virginia Tech, however, is bucking the trend.
“With 20,000 applications rolling through every year and a small body to read them, we don’t have the resources,” said Jennifer Harris, the public relations representative for Tech's admissions office.
While Tech claims social network monitoring is out of the question today, the administration currently has no set policy.
However, only 15 percent of schools have a definitive policy on monitoring applicants’ online pages, and 69 percent of those schools ban it; 75 percent of schools reported to not using social media to assess applicants at all.
However, the prevalence of social media is a continually changing process. As trends in usage shift in the coming years, whether those numbers change is up for debate.
“When I was applying to schools, I made sure to privatize all of my social networking accounts from the general public,” said freshman business major Michael Harnisch. “I made sure my profile picture was 'neutral' too.”