Both sides should use caution when admitting students based on social media

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    Better untag yourself from those pictures taken at that party last weekend. While you’re at it, make sure you Google yourself to see what pops up.

    According to a Feb. 25 article from the Los Angeles Times, a new study by Kaplan Test Prep found more than 80 percent of college admission officers are now using Facebook when they recruit students.

    This means it is now more crucial than ever for students to be vigilant and honest about what goes online for everyone to see.

    It’s a great idea to have another outlet outside of a university’s restrictive essays and standardized testing scores. Potential students have the opportunity to showcase their personality in ways that paper can’t convey.

    Allison Otis, an interviewer for Harvard College, said in a blog post on Quora.com that students should be careful when crafting an online image. Students spend too much time on their essays and applications to not pay attention to their online data too, Otis said.

    Applicants aren’t just told to watch what they put online; they’re encouraged to build an image through a variety of means.

    Dean Tsouvalas, a StudentAdvisor.com editor, posted a blog on this subject titled, “How to Use Social Media to Help Get Accepted to College.” In the post, Tsouvalas said applicants should take proactive steps such as “liking” a university’s Facebook fan page, “following” the university’s Twitter account and by paying attention to their social media channels. Tsouvalas also said applicants should create a YouTube account with a sort of video résumé about the student and why that student wants to attend a specific university.

    Finally, Tsouvalas said hopefuls should start blogs about their activities and their interest in certain universities and include the links on their Facebook pages and applications.

    TCU Dean of Admission Ray Brown wrote in an e-mail that he would be surprised if the percentage of admission officers who checked social media was even one-tenth of the number the study said. He wrote that checking the accounts of all applicants would add another layer of investigation to what is already an overwhelming review process.

    “It is true, though, that if ever a Facebook (or other) posting is brought to our attention as being in poor taste (or worse), you can be sure we’ll look into it,” Brown wrote. “Character issues remain an important ingredient among the things we consider, and when we have a question about that from some external source, we’ll always investigate it.”

    Brown also wrote that when applicants sent in electronic media for their “Freedom of Expression” page, it strikes the admission staff as gimmicky.

    While Facebook is a public forum that allows potentially anyone to have access, the question of privacy and where the line should be drawn definitely comes to play.

    By having a Facebook account, people are essentially saying yes, it is OK to see what I’m up to. Unless someone has their privacy settings on high alert, it’s not that difficult to find out the details of someone’s life.

    It boils down to if students put it online, they should be prepared to suffer the repercussions of judgment.

    Another angle is students’ pruning their image to appear as more viable candidates. It would be easy for an applicant to follow all of the advice Tsouvalas gave, and with a little creative wording they could lie about their involvement and sincerity.

    College Board statistics have shown that for the past 30 years, college educations have empowered people to earn more money.

    This justification of one’s choice to get an education has now become a motivating factor for students to do anything to get ahead.

    Take Akash Maharaj in 2008. He forged a transcript and recommendation from Columbia University and was admitted to Yale and received a $32,000 scholarship. Along with a variety of other lies, Maharaj was able to pull it all off until he personally confessed.

    While Facebook and Twitter are a great resource for a more three-dimensional opinion of potential students, they should be used with caution on both sides.

    College admission officers should be wary of what they find on social media, and applicants should understand that their private lives aren’t so private if they’re online.

    Bailey McGowan is a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Burkburnett.