Should college applicants be concerned about their social media profiles?

Kathryn FlynnBy: Kathryn Flynn | 

Colleges may look beyond a prospective student’s application during their evaluation process. According to a recent survey from Kaplan Test Prep, 68% of college admissions officers consider social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram “fair game” when it comes to learning more about an applicant.

Do schools consider social media in the college application process?

“If it’s searchable, it’s fair game,” said one admissions officer, referring social media. Yet the survey found only 29% have ever used anything from a student’s social media profile in their decision-making process, down from 35% in 2017. What’s more, 20% said their school has official guidelines or policies regarding using social media as part of the admissions process, and of that 20%, 33% of schools forbid it.

However, the survey also found that 9% of college admissions officers have previously revoked an offer because of something they found on social media, so it’s definitely something for applicants to consider.

A separate survey from Kaplan found that today’s students are more concerned about their profiles than ever before.And according to Yariv Alpher, executive director of research for Kaplan Test Prep, social media behaviors have been changing in recent years. Today’s students are moving away from posting to Facebook to using platforms like Snapchat, where content becomes inaccessible after a short time.

Perhaps students are being more cautious after Harvard University rescinded offers to 10 incoming freshmen in 2017, after finding out about “offensive” memes they shared in a private Facebook group chat. Although the page was managed by Harvard’s College Admissions and Financial Aid Office, it's description stated,

“As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character”.

Another recent incident involved a Florida high school student who posted an offensive prom proposal. The University of Florida, as well as Florida State University, said they don't track applicants on social media, but they are notified of inappropriate posts, according to the Herald Tribune. If they feel that a social media post indicates violence, or is a threat to the community, the student could be denied admission, or admission could be rescinded.

How important are social media profiles in the college admissions process?

According to the survey, other college admissions officers think looking at social media profiles is an “invasion of privacy”. They feel that all of the information needed to make a decision about a student will be found in their application, such as GPA, letters of recommendation and personal statements. Some of these officers will check out a student’s social media profile, but only if the student provides it in the application.

While the chances are slim that social media will influence a college’s admission decision, it’s a good idea for prospective students to be selective about how and what they post. For more information about the survey, check out the video from Kaplan below:



Kathryn Flynn

Kathryn Flynn

Content Director
Kathryn is Content Director at Savingforcollege.com. She has been quoted in financial publications including the Wall Street Journal, the NY Times, Fortune, Money and GOBankingRates, and has been an expert guest on personal finance podcasts. Prior to Savingforcollege.com, Kathryn worked in product marketing at Henderson Global Investors (now Janus Henderson Investors), a global asset manager. She earned her MBA with Finance Concentration from DePaul University's Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, and has prior FINRA Series 7 and 63 licenses. Kathryn has 529 college savings plans for each of her three children, and enjoys creating content to help other families prepare for future higher education costs.