It's not surprising that social-networking are all the rage among today's teens but those same party-loving young people might want to watch what they post about themselves if they want to get into that college of their dreams.
Getting into college is no longer just about sky-high test scores and an impressive (and multipage) list of extracurricular activities. It’s also about your online persona. And so, students have yet another potential obstacle to navigate in an increasingly fierce competition for slots in the country's top universities.
In the Kaplan survey, 10% of admissions officers from prestigious schools said they had peeked at sites like Facebook and MySpace to evaluate college-bound seniors. Of those using the profiles, 38% said it had a "negative impact" on the applicant. At least one admissions officer had rescinded an offer because of an applicant's postings! Ouch!
The networking sites were virtually nonexistent five years ago but now are approaching cell phone use in popularity. So it makes sense that a growing number of colleges are considering these personal sites as a factor in their admissions decisions.
Fox News reports that at the University of Notre Dame, which received 14,000 applications for 1,985 slots last year, assistant provost for enrollment Dan Saracino said he and his staff "don't go out of our way" to scrutinize students online, but sometimes they come across candidates portraying themselves in a less-than-flattering light.
"It's typically inappropriate photos—like holding up a can of beer at a party," Saracino told Fox.
"We try to turn it into a teaching moment," he said. "It's an opportunity to let students know that what they put on these sites is not just between you and your friends, but you and the world."
On the other hand, using the Internet to vet someone's character seems overly intrusive to some.
"We consider Facebook and MySpace their personal space," said Christopher Watson, dean of undergraduate admissions at Northwestern University. "It would feel somewhat like an invasion of privacy."
Even so, the findings give adults a bit of extra ammunition in urging discretion—not always the first impulse for adolescents.
With colleges expecting a record number of applications this year, the survey results should serve as a wake-up call for both students and parents. It seems that your application consists of more than just what you send… it’s also what the college can Google about you.