Every year there are stories about students who lose their admission to a college because of something they said or did on social media. 2017 is no different. Recently Harvard University rescinded the admission of ten students. Does this really happen? How does it happen? I’ll share my personal experience using social media as an admission director and the things you should avoid when using social media.
My personal story
Many students believe these stories are isolated and cannot happen to them. This is why I share my story of using social media as an admission professional. The first time I looked at the social media of an applicant happened because we were alerted to posts by another parent. At the time, I was the admission director at a dry campus (no alcohol allowed, even if you are 21 years of age) and part of the application included a statement saying the student would not drink alcohol. The student in question had posted multiple photos of drinking on many occasions. For this student, we did not rescind admission. However, the student was required to meet with our Student Development Director, sign a contract about alcohol use, and regularly meet with the director throughout their first year of enrollment.
As we were alerted to more and more activities on social media, a quick review of social media was added to our application review checklist. After reading the admission essays and reviewing transcripts, we searched social media for the student to ensure there was nothing concerning. If anything concerning was found, it was included in the discussion when making decisions for admission. If we were on the fence about admitting a student, something negative on social media would help us make the decision.
Do all admission officers review social media?
Absolutely not. Many admission officers will tell you they do not have the time to search all of their students online. However, if they are alerted to something, most admission officers will review it.
Prospective students, current students, parents, and professors have all alerted admission offices of questionable things a student has said or posted online. Many think only public information can be held against them. However, private conversations or posts can also be brought into question. If something is published online, even in a private conversation, it can be screenshot and shared. This means even deleting something might not make it go away. Just think about all of the articles you may have seen recently about tweets a celebrity has shared, but “the tweet has since been deleted.” Once it is published, it can stay with you forever.
Can admission be rescinded for something you post online?
Absolutely! Offers of admission are conditional and if anything comes up that is not desirable to the institution, they can rescind their offer of admission. For example, according to the article about the Harvard students, it says the 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.” Students can appeal the decision, but if the institution feels the student did not live up to the person they presented themselves as in their application, they can rescind admission.
Colleges want to have students who will represent them well. When students do something that can negatively impact the institution, the college may not want to be associated with the student. For example, think about the recent negative national stories about college students. These negative stories can affect the college in application numbers, money donated, and the professors who will teach at the institution.
What should you avoid?
Before sharing anything online, even in a private conversation, ask yourself if you would be proud of it if it were shared publicly. If not, you may not want to share it. To be safe, avoid the following topics and photos online:
- Bad mouthing someone/something
While the chance an admission officer will see your social media is small, the chance is there. Therefore, think before you share anything online. Make sure you present your best self in all areas of your live, including your online presence.
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Very sound (and needed) advice. I will share with my students.