By Shradha Shrestha
College admission officers say that often check out prospective students by looking up their tweets and other social media posts. A tweet like this could raise a red flags with a college. Photo Illustration by Shradha Shrestha.
College is far from Shelby Oliveri’s mind since she is only a sophomore, so she doesn’t hesitate when it comes to posting private matters online. However, this may be an issue in near future since colleges are starting to look for more than an applicant’s academic skills.
December is the time when many seniors submit their final applications to colleges, and, according to some admission officers, students should be concerned with more than just their GPA and SAT scores.
According to The New York Times article ‘They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets,’
31 percent of 381 college admission officers admitted they had visited an applicant’s social media site to learn more about them.
Looking at an applicant's social media footprint
The question that is raised by many is if the colleges have the right to view a student's social media sites and base a college application decision on that.
“It is important that students understand what they post online whether on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter is there for the world to see. It is not covered by a privacy act and if it is accessible, people have the right to view it. Therefore it is open to public scrutiny,” said Mrs. Montano, one of Branford High School’s guidance counselor.
Mrs. Montano isn’t the only one that acknowledges this. Senior Maria Quagliano adds, “They want students who are going to represent the college in a good manner.”
An applicant can be disrespecting someone in their tweet or their profile picture could be of an illegal activity such as underage drinking. The list goes on. Some college admission officers are starting to base an applicant’s future on how he/she represent themselves online. Student like Marissa Antonino, sophomore, believes “its an invasion of your privacy.” She says the colleges should not judge students on what they do outside of class.
Concerns about privacy
The issue raises a lot of red flags to many students in Branford High School.
"It scares me a little bit that they have authority and power to look so deep into my personal life,” Emma Dwyer, sophomore, said. Junior Chaylea Finn was surprised how much of a difference social media can make. She adds, “ I can see it scaring other people but it doesn’t scare me because I don’t post personal things or thoughts online. If I wouldn’t want to say it in real life then I shouldn’t post it.”
Actions taken by the few colleges not only affects the current applicants but also the students who will be applying in the near future. Students like Shelby Oliveri who are quite not worried about what she usually posts online knows now to be careful. “I realized my future sort of relies on what I put out there and I wouldn’t want risk something so huge on one simple tweet,” she said.
Most BHS students interviewed agree with what the colleges are doing. All of them seem to conclude their answers with “what’s public can be viewed by anyone.”
Colleges have no real 'routine' on checking social media
Natasha Singer, reporter for the New York Times writes about how some colleges don’t have an actual routine to search an applicant on social media. She says, “Most said their school received so many applications to review — with essays, recommendations and, often, supplemental portfolios — that staff members wouldn’t be able to do extra research online. A few also felt that online investigations might lead to unfair or inconsistent treatment.” An unfair treatment that also came up on the article was about how colleges “might erroneously identify the account of a person with the same name as a prospective student — or even mistake an impostor’s account — as belonging to the applicant.”
Students like Kayla Norton agrees how it is “an unfair treatment to an applicant.” Norton stuck to her opinion and says, “I’ve had someone hack to my instagram once. I know many of my friend’s accounts have gotten hacked or had a fake account under their name. Colleges would most likely assume what kind of person I am based on my social media sites. What they don’t know is if it is even me behind that account or an imposter.”
Beth A. Wiser, director of admissions at the University of Vermont told the New York Times that the increase in number of students using social media can help college admission officers.
Mrs.Montano also seems to agree as she says, “Students can search for college and take virtual tours of schools they would never be able to visit because of the cost of travel. Social Media came upon us so quickly that we are trying to catch up with teaching our young people that character counts even behind a keyboard, it's all about integrity.”
What do you think? Should colleges be checking on an applicant’s social media sites? Let us know in the comments or @branfordbuzz on Twitter.