Last fall, I watched my friends nervously alter Facebook surnames, Twitter usernames, and blog URLs. Middle names replaced last names and blog links were suddenly missing a few letters.
The college application process is showing a steady decline in the separation between the Internet and the going-ons in the admission offices of X University, Y College, and Z Institute of Technology. Meaning, Google has become many admission officers’ best friend over the past couple years.
In the virtual world of today, your tweet about your overconsumption of alcohol last night can be on the screen of your admissions officer in less than the amount of time it takes for you to Google “how to cure a hangover.”
The ‘solution’ used to be the construction of Facebook security walls. By using strict privacy settings on your wall, your tagged photos, and your check-ins, it was easy to avert the Facebook search of college admission offices. However, protecting your Facebook is no longer the only precaution.
Twitter, Tumblr, and Google Plus+ are among the top ten most popular social networking websites, but not just by students. Colleges are utilizing these platforms with the intention of increasing advertisement and interaction with their applicants. Some include University of Florida, University of Chicago, and Bennington College.
Boston University liked one of my Tumblr posts.
While the intentions of the colleges may be beneficial (most colleges tend to use these platforms to answer questions an applicant may have, or to post information such as deadlines), there is a double-edged sword effect. Colleges tend to search the hashtags and the tags that relate to them (which explains how BU found my post) and can thereby, find your online profiles.
But do these profiles have an effect on your actual admission?
Out of the 6 colleges asked, half commented that online profiles have no direct leverage over admission statuses. The remaining three did not respond.
“We do not have the time or resources to look students up or try to match up our applicants with their Tumblrs/Twitter handles (it would take forever!),” reported the University of Chicago Tumblr operative staff.
However, the staff suggested that every college applicant try “to keep things savory on social media sites where they may be able to be identified by name.” Just because they do not use social networking websites as a part of their application doesn’t mean others do not.
“It is becoming increasingly common for other schools or potential employers to check public profiles during any application process,” they added.
Of course, it’s difficult to draw a consensus of how Internet profiles are viewed in the eyes of each admissions staff at every college in the United States.
Yet, at the same time, it does not seem far-fetched to believe an admissions officer might think twice about admitting a student whose email address contains the words “sexy,” “cute,” or “hot” and has a profile picture of themselves at a Justin Beiber concert.*
* Just kidding about the Beiber part - kind of.
The six colleges surveyed were asked the question, “Does [school] look into students’ online profiles after they’ve, say, reblogged a post or asked a question from this Tumblr? Does it affect a student’s admissions status if they’re a prospective student?”