Admissions officers are checking Facebook pages and Google search results of potential applicants with higher frequency than ever previously reported.
A Kaplan Test Prep survey released Oct. 4 found that 27 percent of admissions officers use Google and 26 percent use Facebook as a means of evaluating potential candidates for admission.
While this figure represents only a slight shift from 2011, when 20 percent checked Google and 26 percent Facebook, there was a notable change from last year in the number of admissions officers who found online material that had an adverse impact on an applicant’s admissions prospects.
Of those admissions officers who check either Facebook or Google, 35 percent said they discovered damaging material, as opposed to 12 percent last year.
Admissions officers listed vulgarities written in blogs, alcohol consumption in photographs and evidence of other illegal activities as among the types of online content that reflected poorly upon the applicant.
“The traditional application — the essays, the letters of recommendation — represent the polished version of an applicant, while often what’s found online is a rawer version of that applicant,” Jeff Olson, vice president of data science at Kaplan Test Prep, wrote in the organization’s press release about the survey.
Students are now taking a variety of preventative measures to shield their Internet presence from the scrutiny of admissions officers.
Many high school seniors now attempt to keep their pages clean of any pictures that show them drinking or partaking in other illegal activities.
“I just made sure not to be in those photos,” Sylvain Kauffman (COL ’16) said. “I’d heard horror stories about people losing scholarships [because of incriminating photos].”
Some high school seniors, however, use a different approach and attempt to prevent admissions officers from even finding their pages.
“I got rid of all the vowels in my name and changed my email to a non-existent one,” Anastasia Savoretti (MSB ’16) said.
Kenna Libes (COL ’16) was taken aback when her Georgetown interviewer added her as a friend on Facebook but immediately changed her privacy settings to control what she could see.
“I went through my posts like a whirlwind cutting off her visibility,” Libes said.
In contrast to the growing trend toward scrutinizing candidates’ social media activity and Internet presence, however, Georgetown admissions officers said they typically do not use Facebook or Google to learn more about an applicant.
Only 15 percent of colleges nationwide have a policy governing whether their admissions officers are allowed to examine applicants’ Internet presence, of which 69 percent prohibit officers from doing so.
“It is not a valuable use of time for Georgetown’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions to use social media and Google to make inquiries about prospective students,” Margaret Lysy, associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, wrote in an email.
However, Lysy did not entirely rule out the use of Facebook or Google in cases where the admissions office might need more information about a candidate than provided on the application.
“It is possible we could use one of these tools, but it would be an exception,” she said.