By Jennifer Shmukler and Mark Solter
If the college admission process was not already stressful enough, admissions officers are now looking past the paperwork and logging in online to get what they think is a better understanding of their applicants.
With the advent of social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, many universities are now tracking the posts of their applicants. As a result, many students resort to changing their names on these social media sites or deleting their accounts altogether.
“Now, when I need to get in touch with somebody urgently, I can’t even search for him or her on my friend list, because I have no idea what their new name is. It’s actually really frustrating,” said Chantay Young, ’14. “I’m scared of colleges stalking my profile and finding something offensive even though I may not have meant it maliciously in any way. But I can’t delete my Facebook because most of my extracurricular activities depend on social media communication.”
However, this may not be the best solution to getting around college admissions officers. Adam Stevens, the College Office Financial Aid Advisor, said, instead, “Shut down the platforms and start new ones. Seriously. Students ought to be prepared to give up all the fun and important connections they have built up that are linked to their ‘illicit material’. Do this before you click submit on the common app. If you absolutely insist you can start over again at college and then go through the same thing when it’s time to apply for a job or grad school.”
Additionally, students may be scared of fake profiling, since there are often many people who have the same name on Facebook. In reality, almost anybody can “steal” your Facebook identity and make a duplicate profile with your information and post almost anything on your behalf. Online privacy no longer exists.
Stevens understands his students’ concerns, commenting, “Obviously it’s not fair for kids to be subjectively judged based on what they post and what photos they decide to upload, but that is exactly why I chose to bring up this topic with all the seniors applying to college. They need to be extremely mindful of the fact that colleges have access to this kind of personal information. Is this right? Not at all, but does this happen? All the time.”
“The article was sent out to the student body with the intent of helping them. Some kids don’t understand just how real this threat actually is and need to be aware of this before they apply to schools because incriminating material on these social media outlets can impact them negatively,” says Lisa Iacono, a College Office adviser.
An article from the New York Times, entitled, “They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets,” was emailed out to seniors by Stevens. It dealt with a specific instance in which a girl who was visiting Bowdoin College was making rude comments about her peers on Twitter and was eventually denied admission. The school claims that it was because her grades did not make her a competitive applicant, but had she been considered, it may have seriously hurt her chances.
Anna Tsvetkov ’14, said “I’m scared that colleges are essentially spying on me. We’re all teenagers and might have some bad stuff on our timelines but colleges should not be allowed to do this. I changed my name and I hope that’s enough but it just seems ridiculous that admissions officers forget that we make mistakes when we’re young and can hold that against us.”