Universities Use Social Networks for Applicant Screening

    September 23, 2008
    Chris Crum

When you’re a kid, say in high school, you don’t always consider the potential consequences for all your actions, especially on a career level. This is even truer when you don’t even have an idea of what you’re going to do with your life. When I was in high school, I had no idea that I would eventually be writing for an online publication. I didn’t even know where I would be going to college. I’m glad social networks were not in existence yet (not that I’m admitting to any foul behavior).

Let’s face it. As smart as some kids are, they don’t always use their brains, and it would be a shame if certain lapses in judgment affected the rest of their lives negatively, particularly if these lapses could’ve easily been avoided by not posting incriminating photos on MySpace/Facebook.

Sadly, some universities don’t see it the same way, and are screening applicants using social network profiles (yeah, yeah….Facebook’s not a social network). To be fair, I don’t know how harshly they are scrutinizing these profiles. If people are posting pics of themselves with illegal firearms like the guy on YouTube that got busted, that’s one thing, but it’s another if the kid is using profanity on their MySpace page or something.

A recent study has shown that 10% of admissions officers are factoring in MySpace/Facebook profiles, and 38% of them say that findings had a "negative impact" on the applicants. "The finding highlights a technological world moving so fast that neither the students nor the schools have had time to factor in all the implications," says an article from the Chicago Tribune.  "What’s clear is that students have yet another potential obstacle to navigate in an increasingly fierce competition for slots in the country’s top universities."

What you do online can come back to haunt you. It’s not a new idea. It goes to show the earlier in life that people grasp this concept, the more prepared they will be in their future "real world." Perhaps high schools should (maybe some already do) teach online reputation management in their professional development classes. Parents should emphasize the point as well.

Kids need to learn about this stuff. If they’re going to get into shenanigans, they shouldn’t be posting evidence of said shenanigans online, and if they do, they should at least set their profiles to private. Either way, it is an important life lesson that seemingly will become more so as time goes on.