Hey, College Applicants: Guess Who Is Checking Out Your Facebook Page

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In rapidly growing numbers, college admissions officers are researching potential students on social media. Here's how it could affect your applications, for better or worse.

Although good grades, solid scores on college admission tests, an impressive essay and glowing letters of recommendation from teachers are important criteria for getting accepted to colleges, a growing number of college admissions officers are also heading to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to check out potential students.

A record high 40 percent of admissions officers — four times the percentage than in 2008 — say they visit applicants’ social media pages to find out more about them, according to a new study from Kaplan Test Prep, which is based on a survey of more than 400 college admissions officers across the United States.

Although most survey respondents (89 percent) said they only rarely peek at applicants’ social media pages, about 11 percent of college admissions officers said they do so “often.” Their reasons for doing so are mixed.

While social media can be used to check out student behavior, verify student-reported awards and help determine special scholarship eligibility, it’s also helpful in demonstrating special talents, like art, writing, music or modeling.

Whether social media can help or hurt an applicant’s chances of getting accepted into a college is entirely dependent on what admissions officers uncover on social media. Obviously, a Facebook post featuring a gaggle of partying teens would have a different outcome than an Instagram picture post of student-organized fundraiser for a local food bank.

“The growth of social media hasn’t made college admissions a whole new ballgame, but it’s definitely impacted the rules,” said Yariv Alpher, executive director, head of market research for Kaplan Test Prep. “What you post online can and may be used in your favor or against you, so it’s important to think about what you share. When in doubt, the best strategy may be to keep it to yourself.”

And really, isn’t that a good recommendation for anyone who uses social media?

What do you think of college admissions officers using social media to help them make admissions decisions? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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