Social media presence not an admissions factor

Zac Hardwick

November 14, 2013

As high school seniors scramble to complete college applications, Dartmouth applicants can breathe easy knowing that their use of social media has no bearing on their chances of admittance.

A New York Times article released last week pointed to increasing evidence that colleges look at social media profiles when reviewing applications. The article cited a survey of conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, which showed that 31 percent of admissions officers visited an applicant’s Facebook or other personal social media page. Roughly 30 percent of the respondents said they had discovered information online that shed the applicant in a negative light.

But the admissions office insists that officers do not poke around Facebook or Twitter to glean on mischievous behavior.

“We don’t ask our readers to do that,” dean of admissions and financial Aid Maria Laskaris said. “We don’t have time to do that.”

Bev Taylor, founder of Ivy Coach, a New York-based college consulting company, said the trend of admissions officers examining applicants’ social media profiles is occurring more frequently than what is reported.

“I think that 30 percent number is a drop in the bucket,” Taylor said. “You’re not going to get a lot of admissions counselors to admit to it. I would bet that it’s a lot more than that.”

An article by Business Insider last September said that Ivy League schools “have no choice” but to research their applicants online and pointed to the growing number of qualified applicants to justify for the necessity of snooping.

Laskaris, however, pushed back on this notion, saying that there are many other factors beyond the scope of social media platforms that aid the admissions team in differentiating between students, such test scores, GPAs, recommendations and writing quality.

Michele Hernandez ’89, a former Dartmouth admissions officer and founder and CEO of Hernandez College Consulting, agreed that admissions counselors simply do not have the time or desire to search students this way.

“Dartmouth is not a witch hunting school. We would never proactively check anyone’s social page,” Hernandez said. “I mean think about it‚ Dartmouth gets 20,000 applicants a year. No admissions officer is going to try to track down people’s social pages.”

Both Laskaris and Hernandez noted that the admissions team occasionally referred to the Internet to gain insight into certain aspects of the applications, but never take to Google or Facebook to learn about the students. For example, the College might check the location of a remote school or description of a competition that a student submitted as an extracurricular activity.

Hernandez said that other Ivy League schools and highly selective universities are also likely not adding the use of social media to their criteria.

“Colleges are more worried about major disciplinary infractions than they are about a kid having a glass of wine on their foreign studies program,” Hernandez said.

Some students admitted to changing their profiles and social media behavior when applying to college.

“When I heard about this it sort of changed how I used Facebook,” Daniel Kang ’17 said. “I stopped posting useless stuff on my wall and when I commented on my friends posts I started using less swear words. Everything changed for me.”