It’s hard to believe that not long ago, the first crop of college applicants to come age with social media was committing online faux pas by the thousands. It was a more innocent time, back when no one thought twice about posting Facebook photos while playing underaged beer pong. By now, we've all heard the cautionary tales about career and college dreams quashed by online stupidity, and learned from the mistakes of others.
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Today, it’s a given that college admissions officers will peruse applicants’ social media profiles. But as we've become savvier, social media has become more ubiquitous — and weighted more heavily in college admissions — than it was in the past.
We connected with Dr. Kat Cohen, the founder and CEO of educational consulting company IvyWise and author of "The Truth About Getting In" and "Rock Hard Apps," who told us about why social media can still come back to bite you, and how current applicants can avoid the pitfalls.
For a while now, college admissions officers have considered applicants' online presence. Are they placing more emphasis on it than they were in the past?
Yes. Kaplan’s most recent survey of college admissions officers states that 40 percent have visited an applicant’s social media page to learn more about them. This is an increase from the previous year’s survey in which 35 percent of admissions officers visited an applicant’s page, so we are definitely seeing a rise in interest.
Are current college applicants savvier in terms of privacy as compared with the first waves of students to come of age with social media?
I do think more students are becoming more aware, but many of them have a false sense of security when they use apps like SnapChat where they think their images go away after a couple of seconds. Many times, when a school investigates a student’s social presence it is as a result of a tip from someone else about their bad behavior online — such as from a “frenemy.” A school is then required to look into the report.
Do you see or foresee social media becoming yet another thing to "excel" at — college applicants "prepping" or curating their online presence, similar to the way their prep for tests?
Currently there are social sites geared toward just creating profiles for the admissions process like ZeeMee. Students are constantly online and connected so it was only a matter of time before startups tapped into this idea of utilizing social media to help admission chances.
It is early to tell since the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success hasn’t even launched yet, but the longer they have as part of the application could lead to more online/social activity being showcased as part of the college application.