Bringing college admissions to the digital age

Over the last few years, technology has made an enormous impact on the college admissions process — for better or for worse.

New technologies make it easier for prospective students to learn about Penn — through platforms like the University of Pennsylvania YouTube channel and the Penn Admissions Blog, students all over the world can now explore Penn without ever having to visit.

“I think it’s a lot easier to reach out to a broad audience from a Penn admissions standpoint,” said Wharton and Nursing freshman Kelsey Gross, who writes for the Penn Admissions blog. “There are definitely some students in far-out places that would probably be great candidates to go to Penn, but reaching them traditionally through snail mail or calling them on the phone isn’t going to have the same effect as having them being able to access the internet, log on, watch a video of someone at Penn living their life or read a blog post or see pictures.”

The blog provides incoming and interested students a look at the day-to-day life at Penn through the perspective of current Penn students. According to College junior Ray Clark, who joined the blog as a freshman and has written over a hundred posts, it really does have an impact.

“I’ve had two students come up to me and say that the admissions blog itself was the reason they chose to come to Penn,” Clark said. “For me that was very impactful because I guess it gave purpose to the kind of work we are doing here.”

While technology does provide many benefits to students and admissions officers during the college admissions process, students should still be cautious, according to director of the college counseling practice Ivy Coach, Brian Taylor.

“There are dangers. I always check students’ Facebook profiles,” Taylor said. “When they have scandalous photos, you don’t want to show that.”

A 2015 Kaplan Test Prep survey showed that 40 percent of college admissions officers sometimes look at prospective students’ social media profiles in an effort to find out more about their candidates. This number is up 300 percent from 2008. However, students do not need to be too alarmed as the report said that 89 percent of officers only look at the profiles “rarely” and often will only do so if “triggered” by something.

A trigger can be negative or positive. Taylor points out that social media can help candidates show off their qualifications and experience to further add to their application.

“Let’s say a student is selling soaps,” Taylor said. “Now [admissions officers] can see what soaps they’re selling; they can see how they’re presenting them to prospective clients; they can see if this person has real potential as an entrepreneur. So you get to show more so than tell which is always good if you’re able to do it effectively.”

On the other hand, a negative trigger could be an alert or tip of something on a social media that could hurt a candidate’s chances.

“If they’re alerted of something they will certainly check,” Taylor said. “They have an obligation to do so.”


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