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Survey: 40 Percent of Admissions Officers Check Student Social Media Posts

A new survey on the activities of college admissions officers should make students think twice about sharing too much of their lives online.

It might be a tough pill for the generation of oversharers to swallow, but a new survey shows that social media has become a valuable tool for college admission officers.

In Kaplan Test Prep's 2015 survey of college admissions officers, nearly 400 were polled about how they conduct their business online. The survey found that 40 percent of respondents visit applicants' social media pages in an effort to learn more about prospective students. The number represents a record high in the survey's history — four times the percentage in 2008, according to a press release from Kaplan Test Prep.

However, within that number, only 11 percent responded that they check such pages "often"; 89 percent check pages "rarely."

The information gained by admissions officers from a social media search has equal potential to hurt or help prospective students, according to the survey.

“The growth of social media hasn’t made college admissions process a whole new ballgame, but it’s definitely changed the rules,” said Yariv Alpher, executive director of research for Kaplan Test Prep in a news release. “What you post online can and may be used in your favor or against you, so it’s important to think about what you share. When in doubt, the best strategy may be to keep it to yourself.”

When perusing a candidate student's social media activities, admissions officers told surveyors that five factors were considered: talents; awards; criminal records or disciplinary actions; scholarships; and admissions sabotage.

It's yet another indication that students should rein in what they share online. Teaching students the dangers of oversharing on social media has become a key tenet of digital-citizenship lessons. 

"It's really a moral imperative that we have these conversations with our students," said Barbara Brown, senior director of technology at Prestonwood Christian Academy. "They need to realize that their digital footprints will follow them their entire lives."

Jan 21 2016