The revocation of at least ten offers of admission by Harvard University this year due to despicable comments these students made on a Facebook page should serve as a warning shot to college applicants across America and around the world. Those posts students make on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you name the platform — can jeopardize students’ chances of attending their dream colleges. During the course of the college admissions process, do college admissions officers at highly selective schools view all of the profiles of each individual applicant? No. But increasingly they are checking out these platforms as a way of checking and verifying. So those profiles, if they exist, best be precisely how a student wishes to present to an admissions officer.
We always check the social media profiles of our students. Over the years, we’ve seen students in profile pictures on the beach with scant clothing. We’ve seen students kissing their boyfriends and girlfriends. We’ve even seen students holding guns. On Facebook walls, we’ve seen posts that reflect a poor command of the English language. We’ve seen posts that are insensitive, even disparaging to groups of people. And when we alert our students and their parents to these instances, they’re quite often surprised that we can see them because they thought the information was posted privately. It seems students don’t have a full understanding of their privacy settings. But word to the wise — just assume everything you post can be seen by everyone, including college admissions officers. Don’t rely on the privacy settings of platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Rely on your own common sense.
We once read an editorial about how essential it is to have really great social media profiles in order to earn admission to highly selective colleges. It’s not true. Not having any social media presence can be great too! A student doesn’t need a robust, highly cultivated social media presence in order to get into one of America’s most elite universities. That’s ridiculous.
As Luvvie Ajayi recently wrote in a “New York Times” editorial in reaction to the rescinding of at least ten Harvard acceptances, “Digital media literacy is just as important as financial literacy now: Who we appear to be online can significantly impact earning power. This isn’t just a lesson for young adults. Adults are certainly making these same mistakes. But if we can teach high school and college students these lessons now, we can better prevent them from stumbling. And prevention is always better than treatment.” Amen to that.
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