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Social Media Is Seen as 'Fair Game' in College Admissions

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By guest blogger Rachel Wegner

College admissions officers and students agree: It's OK to look at public social media posts made by students as part of their college application process. 

A study released Tuesday by Kaplan Test Prep reveals that more than two-thirds of colleges see applicants' social media profiles as "fair game" for consideration. A separate Kaplan survey showed that 70 percent of the students asked agree, up from 58 percent in 2014.  

Ideological support for using social media as part of admissions decisions is widespread, but other statistics in the report reveal more. Here's a quick look at some of those numbers:

  • Only 29 percent of admissions officers actually look at applicants' social media as part of their process. That number dipped from 35 percent in 2017 and 40 percent in 2015.  
  • Only 20 percent of admissions officers surveyed say their school had official rules on researching applicants' social media. Of that 20 percent, around two-thirds said their school prohibits them from doing so.

Some students have gotten more savvy at hiding their information, which makes it trickier to acces, said Yariv Alpher, the executive director of research for Kaplan Test Prep. 

Those who support the practice argue that if employers use this method, so can schools. "I think if things are publicly accessible without undue intrusion, it's OK," one survey respondent wrote. "If it's searchable, it's fair game." 

Once students are admitted, they aren't always in the clear. Nearly 1 in 10 admission officers said they revoked admission for incoming students because of questionable social media posts. 

Those who oppose the practice raised concerns over the invasion of privacy. "We use social media for recruitment, not admissions," one officer wrote. Another said they only use social media if the applicant provides it. 

Even with wide support for considering social media posts in applications, most colleges stick to more traditional means like standardized test scores, academics, entrance essays, and recommendations. 

"For most, these traditional factors provide enough useful information to make a decision, like it has for generations of their predecessors," said Alpher.

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