“What is an admissions officer, anyway?”
When I ask this question in my college-prep seminars, the responses vary. A judge. A gatekeeper. That jerk who loves rejecting applicants.
The answer is simple: Admissions officers are people—and people accept other people. A recent New York Times article reported on the growing trend of admissions officers scrutinizing an applicant’s social media page and online presence as part of the evaluation process. Titled “They Loved Your GPA. Then They Saw Your Tweets,” you can find it through my post on this topic in my MLT U blog at mainlinetoday.com.
Among the points in the story that stood out: Of 381 college admissions officers surveyed, 31 percent said they’d “visited an applicant’s Facebook or other personal social media page to learn more about them.” This represents a five-percent increase from the previous admissions cycle. Thirty percent of those polled said that, while searching online, they’d found information that “negatively affected an applicant’s prospects.”
This is not just a lesson for high school seniors—or juniors, for that matter. It’s a lesson for all of us. The world is changing at an alarmingly fast rate. While Facebook and Twitter remain synonymous with social media, there are Pinterest, Instagram and others. Even a name search on Google can bring up a host of results.
As the online options for self-expression multiply, so do the chances that others will find—and, in turn, pass—judgment. Sometimes young people lose sight of the fact that they themselves may be the information others are trying to access.
The bottom line: When in doubt, don’t post it. If you did already, delete it—or, at the very least, hide it.
Admissions officers are people. People make assumptions about other people. Judgments are quick and inevitable. If there is a red cup in a picture, do not share it. Red cups are red flags for alcohol. If an inside joke could be interpreted as offensive to an outsider, it probably is offensive. Your friends may laugh, but the world may not.
Teenagers will fight back. They’ll say their parents are being paranoid, annoying, overbearing. Most of the time, the kids are probably wrong.