The Percentage of College Admissions Officers Who Say Applicants’ Social Media Content is “Fair Game” Ticks Up

You may have heard recently on the news that Joe Rogan has gotten in trouble with some of the controversial things he has said on his podcast. Others famous people such as Chrissy Tiegen and Roseanne Barr have gotten a lot of criticism after posts and Roseanne even was fired from her sitcom. Many unknown people have been arrested for dumb things they have posted on social media.

What does this have to do with your students? A new survey by Kaplan finds that 66 percent of college admissions officers think that applicants’ social media posts are “fair game” to help them determine who gets in.

Kaplan’s 2021 college admissions officers survey shows that a near record percentage of admissions officers think that applicants’ social media postings are “fair game” to help determine who gets in*. Of the hundreds of admissions officers surveyed, 66 percent (up 9 points since 2018) see no issue with social media being part of the admissions equation, a point of view that has gained support in recent years. In Kaplan’s 2020 survey, 65 percent reported they had a “fair game” view; in 2019, it was 59 percent, while the 2018 survey found it to only be 57 percent, and 68 percent in 2017, a high water mark. Taking the contrarian view, 34 percent of admissions officers consider viewing applicants’ social media “an invasion of privacy and shouldn’t be done.”

Among other findings:

  • The survey found that 27 percent of admissions officers visit applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them⁠—significantly down from 36 percent in Kaplan’s 2020 survey**.
  • Of admissions officers who have checked out an applicant’s social media footprint, six percent say they do it “often,” a steep drop from the 17 percent who responded this way in Kaplan’s 2020 survey.
  • Of the admissions officers who say they check applicants’ social media, 38 percent say that what they found has had a positive impact on prospective students, down from 42 percent in 2020. On the flip side, 57 percent say that what they found had a negative impact, down slightly from the 58 percent who answered this way in 2020.

“Kaplan has been tracking the role of social media in the college admissions process since 2008 and it’s clear that a strong majority of admissions officers have arrived at being philosophically comfortable with the idea of visiting applicants’ social media profiles. Most will continue to say that while social media profiles shouldn’t be off limits, they are much more focused on evaluating prospective students on the traditional admissions factors like GPA, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, admissions essays, and extracurriculars,” says Isaac Botier, executive director of college admissions programs, Kaplan.

“What also struck us was that a far lower percentage of admissions officers are actually visiting applicants’ social media profiles, compared to the past few years. We believe that given COVID-related issues, admissions officers decided to take a step back and give applicants the benefit of the doubt.”

Share this information with your students and let them know that post they make today could come back to haunt them later so they should really think about what they are posting online.