Students Becoming More Mindful of Their Online Behavior

By Chris Hassan
Posted November 03, 2013 01:00 PM

Students make it harder for admissions officers to find them online.
Students make it harder for admissions officers to find them online.

The types of concerns students have during the college admissions process have changed dramatically over the past decade. This has a lot to do with the fact that popular websites like Facebook and Twitter simply did not exist back then.

While it may have taken some students longer to realize that what they share online can come back to haunt them, social media users appear to be catching on, based on the findings of a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of college admissions officers.

Students Making Smarter Decisions

Kaplan surveyed 381 admissions officers who provided insight into the role Facebook and other social media websites play in researching applicants. Overall, 31% of respondents have visited prospective bachelor's degree seekers' profiles on Facebook or other social networking websites, while 29% of admissions officers searched for applicants using Google, according to a press release.

"As social media has skyrocketed from being the domain of a younger generation to societal ubiquity, the perceived taboo of admissions officers checking applicants online has diminished," said Seppy Basili, vice president of Kaplan Test Prep. "Granted, most admissions officers are not tapping into Google or Facebook, and certainly not as a matter of course. But there's definitely greater acknowledgment and acceptance of this practice now than there was five years ago."

While admissions officers are researching applicants' online activity more than ever before, the number of college officials finding questionable material has dropped from 35% in 2012 to 30% this year.

"Many students are becoming more cautious about what they post, and also savvier about strengthening privacy settings and circumventing search," said Christine Brown, executive director of college admissions programs at Kaplan Test Prep.

Less Concern Among Students

Not only are admissions officers finding less damaging content online, but more students are OK with the idea of college officials searching their name in an Internet search engine. Based on the responses to a separate Kaplan Test prep survey of 422 students, 50% of these individuals said they wouldn't be concerned at all if admissions officers searched for information on them online. In addition, 27% of students would not be too concerned, while just 14% would be very concerned.

Survey responses also reveal how students are making themselves harder to find on the Internet. For example, 26% of them have untagged themselves in online photos they appeared in, while 22% changed their names on social media websites. Then, there was the 12% of students who have deleted their social media accounts entirely.

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