Teens and social media post are practically synonymous these days. Kids have grown up tweeting, texting and posting pictures without giving it too much thought. It’s just what they do. But now, it’s getting time to think about college or a first job and all that personal information may come back to haunt them.
Colleges are increasingly searching applicant’s names on the Internet. Most college applications are submitted online, so an administrator only has to open a new tab to learn more about a hopeful candidate’s public profile. Background checks are easily available as well.
The percentages of college admissions officers who say they have Googled an applicant (29%) or visited an applicant’s Facebook or other social networking page to learn more about them (31%) have risen to their highest levels yet, according to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2013 survey of college admissions officers*. When Kaplan first began tracking this issue in 2008, barely 10% of admissions officers reported checking an applicant’s Facebook page. Last year, 27% had used Google and 26% had visited Facebook — up from 20% and 24%, respectively, in 2011.
“As social media has skyrocketed from being the domain of a younger generation to societal ubiquity, the perceived taboo of admissions officers checking applicants online has diminished,” said Seppy Basili, Vice President, Kaplan Test Prep. “Granted, most admissions officers are not tapping into Google or Facebook, and certainly not as a matter of course. But there’s definitely greater acknowledgment and acceptance of this practice now than there was five years ago.”
Nobody really knows how much importance colleges place on what they find online about a prospective student.
Mark Sklarow, CEO of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, a national organization of private college admissions advisers, tells teens to review their postings and profiles with a critical eye. For example, Sklarow would ask student: “Do comments make you sound like a misogynist? A bully? Do hundreds and hundreds of ‘selfies’ convey narcissism?”
Parents need to be connected with their kids on social media sites so they can know what their child is posting. You can do your own investigation by Googling your child to see what kinds of information is readily available such as pictures, threads and what they like on Facebook and other social media sights.
Many children have already been told that whatever they post is on the web forever, whether they delete it or not.
The Kaplan Test Prep survey also revealed that 50 percent of high school respondents said they were “not at all concerned” about online searches hurting their chances of admission. While optimism is a wonderful trait, teens and adults may view online posts differently. What may seem like common language and behavior between teens may not translate the same to adults. Parents can help teens understand what is acceptable and what might be considered inappropriate to someone considering a college or job application.
Online posts can also work in a teen’s favor. Many young people volunteer, take an interest in the environment, support worthwhile charities, take extra classes or work part time. These are all activities that can leave a positive impression and help a student stand out.
Parents can help their teen prepare for college in many different ways. Talking to your child about their online profile is a good start. There’s no guarantee that the college of their choice will be checking them out online, but if it does make sure they will have nothing to be concerned about.