With so many teenagers active on social media sites, you may be wondering, “Can Facebook or Twitter posts affect my child’s chances of getting into a college?” Or you may ask, "Do colleges really look at Facebook?" According to a 2012 survey by Kaplan Test Prep, 27% of college admissions officers used Google and 26% used Facebook to search applicants. In addition, 30% of admissions officers reported finding information that negatively impacted a student’s chances of admission.
Considering these statistics, should you and your child worry about the digital footprint that colleges could be viewing? The New York Times article, “They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets,” talks about various outlooks on the issue. The New York Times found that most admissions officers claim to not perform research on applicants without reason, but sometimes students specifically request them to check out something they’ve posted online. In addition, if a college receives tips that there might be a problem, they will “Google” students to verify information. There is nothing preventing this research from being used in the admissions decision process, and colleges aren’t required to disclose whether social media posts were a factor in their denial from a school. With this information in mind, it’s a good idea for your child to maintain a mature online profile, just in case.
The way your student presents himself or herself online doesn’t only affect college applications, but it can also impact the possibility of earning a job later after graduation. Here are a few tips for helping your child create an appealing digital footprint that will impress college admissions officers instead of driving them away:
1. Search your student on Google
The results that pop up when you Google search your child’s name will be very similar to what an admissions officer would see if they were to do the same. Seppy Basili, Kaplan Test Prep’s Vice President says students should, “…be aware of what information is available about them online, and know what’s online is open to discovery and can impact them.”
2. Create a mature email address
Many teenagers have email addresses that could use some updating. According to the New York Times, using an email address like “firstname.lastname@example.org,” instead of “email@example.com” can show an admissions officer that your student is a mature adult, ready for college.
3. Use the “Grandma test”
The Brown Daily Herald has another great article about social media affecting admissions decisions, and one of the big tips they offer is to perform the “Grandma test” on social media interactions. This means that your child shouldn’t post anything online if they wouldn’t be okay with their grandmother seeing it. Teach your child about the importance of watching what he or she posts on social media sites, because colleges can easily access that information.
Editor’s Note: This content was originally published in December 2009 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.