The Ivy Coach Daily

October 18, 2023

Do Colleges Check Applicants’ Social Media?

Bicycles are featured on a rack next to a brick building at Harvard University.
A few years ago, Harvard rescinded the offers of admission of ten students for anti-Semitic and racist social media posts.

We at Ivy Coach are often asked if admissions officers at America’s elite universities regularly peruse the social media profiles of their applicants. Some parents feel their students should have robust social media presences to substantiate some of their extracurricular pursuits. Others are wary of their high school-aged children posting anything on social media for fear of scaring off admissions officers. So, what’s the answer?

College Admission Officers Can Look at Social Media Accounts

Admissions officers are human beings who know how to use the internet. As such, they can access social media profiles — from Instagram to TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Facebook (if any students are on the platform anymore). And, in most cases, it’s pretty easy to find a student’s social media footprint. A simple Google search can pull up a veritable treasure trove of content.

In fact, last year, Kaplan conducted a survey that found that 66% of admissions officers surveyed asserted accessing an applicant’s social media in the decision-making process should be fair game — a significant uptick from Kaplan’s 2018 survey. Yet, it should also be noted that 35% of admissions officers surveyed believed accessing an applicant’s social media should be off-limits because it’s an invasion of privacy.

But, of course, that doesn’t mean these admissions officers aren’t accessing applicants’ social media profiles behind closed doors. After all, there’s what they say and what they do.

Yet Most Admissions Officers Don’t Look at Social Media

In our experience, admissions officers — who typically complete their review of an individual applicant’s file in around seven minutes — simply don’t have time to check out an applicant’s social media footprint. Are there exceptions? Of course! Some students directly link to social media accounts on their applications. Others might trigger admissions officers to check out their profiles because they raised a red flag in their application. But we — and we have former Ivy League admissions officers on our team at Ivy Coach — find such instances to be exceptions to the rule, not the rule.

College Applicants Should Be Prudent on Social Media

All that said, we encourage applicants to be mindful of the fact that the eyes of admissions officers might be looking over their social media profiles. As such, their profiles — if they exist — should be private, and any posts on their profiles, even beyond the privacy firewall, should pass the test of whether an applicant would want an admissions officer to see the content.

We would always prefer our students at Ivy Coach not to have social media profiles. The articles written over the last few years in reputable publications about how students improve their cases for admission to elite universities with robust LinkedIn profiles are, in our view, utter nonsense — students need not have LinkedIn profiles (or any other social media profiles) to impress admissions officers. That’s ridiculous!

We at Ivy Coach Support No Social Media Footprint

So, parents, we support your ask of your children to have zero social media footprint. But if, in fact, they choose not to listen to you (or to us), do make sure that every single one of their posts on every single one of their social media platforms would not jeopardize their case for admission to an elite university. And if you think a post will hurt their case for admission, it likely will. Thus, err on the side of caution and have your child take it down at once. Heck, they should even be careful after they earn admission. Remember when Harvard rescinded the offers of admission of ten students for their racist and anti-Semitic posts? We sure do!

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