The Direct Network

When Applying to College, an Online Profile Matters More than Ever

Posted by Kate Seat on Jan 29, 2016 10:17:22 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, Marketing to Students
As important as the applications, transcripts and essays are to the college admission process, they don't present the entire picture of a prospective student. To fill in the gaps, many admissions officers are now also investigating the student's online presence — which can help or hinder her chances.
This excerpt from a post on eCampus News explains what many admissions officers are looking for.

According to the results of a new Kaplan Test Prep survey, a higher percentage of United States college admissions officers visit the social media pages of applicants in order to learn more about them.

For the 2015 survey, 387 admissions officers from the nation’s top national, regional and liberal arts colleges and universities were polled by telephone between July and August 2015. It was found that 40 percent of admissions officers visit applicants’ social media profiles to research them more in depth, which represents a record high that is also quadruple the percentage of affirmative respondents from when Kaplan first explored the trend in 2008.

As for the percentage of admissions officers who say they have Googled an applicant to learn more about them, that figure has remained relatively stable over the last two years at 29 percent.

Checking Social Media in Admissions for Some but Not Others

Why check the likes of Facebook or Google for some students but not others? Admissions officers identified numerous triggers, some of which are positive, and some of which are negative:

The first main factor identified is Interest in Talents. Some admissions officers say they visit an applicant’s social media page in order to more clearly see a special talent, such as in music or writing. Often, this comes as an invitation from the applicant themselves, with 42 percent of admissions officers reporting an increase in such invitations over the last two years.

Another important trigger in checking an applicant’s online presence can be in Verification of Awards. Sometimes, citation of particularly distinguished, “out of the norm,” or noteworthy awards can trigger an admissions officer to want to verify it on their own.

Checking online for Criminal Records or Disciplinary Action can also be an important tool for admissions officers to utilize if they want to learn more details about any prior incidents of this nature.

Students applying for special Scholarships can also often come under greater scrutiny, as institutions want to be sure that the students who are chosen to receive them are the most deserving. What admissions officials find online can make a major mark on whether or not a student is chosen for a scholarship.

Finally, and perhaps surprisingly, Admissions Sabotage was also reported by respondents as a factor that leads them to check online profiles of applicants. Anecdotally, some admissions officials reported occasionally receiving anonymous tips about inappropriate behavior of prospective students. Sometimes, they’ll dig online to see if the tips have any merit.

One thing is clear: admissions officials are increasingly checking online. Thus, it is of extreme importance for applicants to mind their online presence, not just because it could hurt their chances if mismanaged, but more importantly, because a positive online presence could give their admission chances a huge boost.

About Kate Seat

Kate Seat is a former copywriter at MBS. When away from work, she’s either creating one-of-a-kind art dolls, reading or watching way too much tv with her husband, daughter and an irritable chinchilla named Klaus.

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