Editorial: Applicants must be social media conscious

By The Pitt News Editorial Staff

Students have been warned for years that what they put on their Facebook profiles could affect their chances for employment. Now, high school students must realize that their Twitter accounts can also affect their college prospects.

A prospective student attended an information session at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and spent much of the presentation on her cell phone, tweeting negative comments about fellow high school students attending the program. The student was not accepted by the college, not because of her Twitter presence, but because her academic credentials were unsatisfactory. However, admissions officers admitted that if her academic record had been more impressive, her careless tweets would have affected her chances of acceptance.

Using social media responsibly and correctly is a skill that students need to learn early, alongside the fact that no social media platform is beyond scrutiny.

Kaplan Test Prep conducted a telephone questionnaire that showed an increase in the use of social media to learn about applicants. Thirty-one percent of the 381 admissions officers who participated in the survey said they did, indeed, use social media, with 30 percent admitting they had discovered information about applicants that negatively affected the applicants’ admissions prospects.

There is no consistency regarding whether or not colleges use social media to research their students and how transparent they are about this use. Few colleges admit that using Google searches and social media to learn about applicants is part of their admissions routines. Furthermore, there is no consistency with how transparent colleges are in their use of social media to eliminate students from the admissions pool. For example, Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., does not contact students when their social media presence excludes them from the admissions pool. Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., does.

Many high schools now require the use of social media as part of the curriculum. Allowing students to use social media under closely monitored circumstances, such as under teacher supervision as part of a class, can help prevent them from posting material that could negatively affect their futures. Teachers are able to step in when inappropriate content is posted and advise its deletion, thus, preventing it from occurring again.

Because Twitter is also a main source for employers and admissions officers to attain information, responsible use of social media is a skill that needs to be taught instead of leaving students to their own devices.

The best advice for students is to keep their social media accounts private and to tailor their social media presence to the image they wish to project. No social media site is safe from scrutiny, and teachers should strive to add social media literacy to their curriculums.