social media
Better get on there and tidy up your profile. Source: mirtmirt/Shutterstock

The 21st century is great: you can do your weekly food shop, speak to thirty of your friends scattered all over the world simultaneously and even get a degree from the comfort of your own home.

But with the many perks of modern living comes a few potential drawbacks…

According to a recent survey of college admissions officers by Kaplan Test Prep, 68 percent of colleges feel it’s “fair game” to trawl through applicants’ social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, before deciding who to send an offer and who to decline.

However, the report also found only around a third of colleges actually do it.

But it’s still a pretty significant figure and one which, considering attitudes, has the potential to grow.

Universities are not alone in their beliefs: a separate survery also from Kaplan found 70 percent of US high school students think this is reasonable, a figure which has increased from 58 percent over the last four years.

“What we found remarkable about the survey results is how colleges and applicants have come to a meeting of […] minds regarding social media’s role in the admissions process,” Kaplan’s Executive Director of Research Yariv Alpher told Entrepreneur.

He added, however, that it is “counterintuitive to teens’ value of privacy, or at least the sense that many adults have about teens’ value of privacy” to have adults trawling through young peoples’ social media accounts.

Alpher claimed that while both colleges and applicants feel it is reasonable to look at their accounts, the beliefs are likely to stem from different reasons.

” Colleges may consider it fair game because it allows them to see the ‘unscripted’ applicant, during an admissions process that is fairly scripted,” Alpher said.

The admissions team can then see “something extra and unfiltered” of the applicant they would otherwise be missing.

Applicants, however, may have a different take on it.

“Some actively use social media to their advantage, seeing it as an opportunity to showcase accomplishments and talents, and build their personal brands,” Alpha explained.

However, some students “may think what they post will have no negative effect,” he added.

What can the negative consequences be?

It’s not just hearsay – there are actual occurrences of students having their applications denied or their offers revoked after troublesome posts on social media.

Just last yearHarvard withdrew the acceptances of around 12 students who were due to start at the university due to memes the students had shared on social media.

Of the college recruiters who admit to snooping on applicants’ profiles, 35 percent claim they discovered something which had a negative impact on the applicant’s likelihood of being offered a place at the university.

However, the number of admissions officers utilising social media to make their decisions is actually dropping.

In the 2015 survey, 40 percent of admissions officers checked social media, dropping to 35 percent in the following year, and now this figure stands at 29 percent.

Entrepreneur attributed this to the fact many prospective college students are progressively moving from open platforms like Facebook and Twitter to more private ones such as Snapchat and WhatsApp.

So, whether they’re snooping or not, it will certainly be wise to tidy up those social media accounts, be sure you are comfortable with your privacy settings, only post positive and respectable photos, videos and statuses and – this one goes without saying – don’t post anything offensive. What may seem like a ‘joke’ between friends could be highly offensive to someone else – inside or outside of the college admissions bubble.

Use your social media for good; you just never know when someone could be looking.

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