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Social media ‘fair game’ say admissions staff

More than two-thirds of US college admissions officers said that it’s fair to visit applicants’ social media profiles to help decide who gets in, a recent survey has found. One in 10 admitted they had revoked an incoming student’s offer because of what they found on social media. There was no distinction made between local or international applications, according to Kaplan Test Prep.

One in 10 admitted they had revoked an incoming student’s offer of admission because of what they found on social media. Photo: PexelsOne in 10 admitted they had revoked an incoming student’s offer of admission because of what they found on social media. Photo: Pexels

9% had revoked an incoming student’s offer of admission because of what they found online

Of the 388 college admissions officers who took part in Kaplan Test Prep’s survey, 68% said if students’ Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts are publicly accessible without “undue intrusion”, they felt comfortable with this practice of checking them prior to admission.

“The majority of admissions officers are sticking with traditional elements of the application”

However, just only 29% of respondents said they had actually engaged in the practice — a decline from 35% in Kaplan’s previous survey and down from a 40% high in 2015.

Yariv Alpher, executive director of research for Kaplan Test Prep, noted that some of the decline can be attributed to changing social media habits, as teenagers have migrated to non-archival social media platforms such as Snapchat.

“You cannot visit an applicant’s social media profile if you can’t locate them, and as one admissions officer shared with us, ‘students are harder to find’ ,” he said.

However, Alpher added that “the majority of admissions officers are sticking with traditional elements of the application”, such as standardised test scores, GPA, letters of recommendation, and personal statements.

A spokesperson for Kaplan added that the social media checks were often prompted by claims of awards or skills which required verification.

The survey also revealed that 9% of officers had revoked an incoming student’s offer of admission because of what they found on social media.

This comes on the heels of Harvard University’s decision in 2017 to revoke the acceptance of at least 10 students for posting highly offensive memes on a private Facebook group for incoming freshmen.

While some admissions officers said they consider social media checking an “invasion of privacy”, a separate Kaplan survey of more than 900 US high school students found that 70% said they consider social media profiles an appropriate means for admissions officers evaluating applicants — up from 58% in 2014.

Social media activity has also come under scrutiny at British HEIs of late, as several students were expelled from the University of Exeter for exchanging racist messages on WhatsApp.

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