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College Admissions: The Perils of Facebook

Monday, June 20, 2011


Students in Providence learned a hard lesson about perceived privacy and the Internet this week when a Facebook party invitation from Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman’s teenage daughter became public. The invitation encouraged guests to bring drinks and “bud” (slang for marijuana), and stated that there would be “pong” (a drinking game). Clearly, there are many serious issues with this situation. However, it is also shines a spotlight on the fact that teenagers fall into the common trap of believing that their social network security settings prevent others from seeing their postings, pictures and invitations. It is critical for teens to

realize that what you post on Facebook (or anywhere on the Internet) is FOREVER and is subject to being seen by EVERYONE.

Your potential colleges see you on Facebook

According to a Kaplan Test Prep survey, more than 80% of colleges use social media in their recruitment efforts. This means that colleges have Facebook pages that students can join, and that they may review student pages during admissions. Coaches, in particular, seem to like to check out potential athletes. Why? Colleges and coaches don’t want to invite trouble onto campuses and teams. The student who is brazen enough to post a picture of himself/herself drinking alcohol as a minor or smoking pot illegally, isn’t an attractive prospect. Officials want responsible students who will obey the rules.

A student who displays an image as a party boy/girl at a young age may be viewed as a risk for attrition. Even after you are accepted to college, you put your matriculation at risk with questionable postings. Colleges can and will rescind acceptances based on illegal or unethical behavior. And if you think your privacy settings will protect you, think again. Most students I know haven’t even met half of their Facebook “friends”. They don’t know who they are letting in, and who has the technological savvy  or network to get around privacy settings.

5 ways to use Facebook during the admission process

So, what is the best way to use Facebook and other social media sites during the college admission process and after? First, your personal page should reflect who you are in a positive manner. Pictures should be of you, your family, friends, sports, performing and visual arts, etc. Postings should be about your favorite activities, political and social passions, family vacations, camp and the latest goal you scored. You should join the Facebook pages of colleges you are interested in to follow news, connect with existing students, and get admissions advice. And finally, after you are accepted to college, Facebook can be a great way to meet fellow students before you get to campus, and maybe even find a roommate! Quite simply, stay away from any references to drugs, alcohol, sex, bullying, cheating and lying. And be very cautious about pictures that are posted by others which tag you in questionable circumstances.

Social media is a wonderful tool that allows students to glean much more information about colleges than ever before. However, it also makes students far more vulnerable than in past generations as admissions officials peer inside their personal lives and draw conclusions about character and indiscretions. So, the next time you log on, think about if you are comfortable with your top choice college viewing your latest picture or posting.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.

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