Should colleges use social media to influence admissions decisions?

A photo on Instagram featuring several partying youths.

With admissions deadlines drawing nearer, college is on every senior’s mind. Everyone is polishing up their applications and essays, but what about their social media? For such a trivial part of life, the consequences may be greater than you know. The 2013 Kaplan Test Prep College Admissions Officers Survey reveals that 29% of colleges have Googled an applicant, 31% have visited their social networking profiles, like Facebook, and 30% said they discovered something online about an applicant that negatively impacted their application. Possible posts include status updates and photos of students using drugs or alcohol, swearing, making inappropriate hand gestures, wearing revealing clothing, and partying. But should colleges have the right to use your online persona as grounds to deny your application?

“Yes,” answers senior Betsy Samber, “what you post online reveals your character, and that’s important for schools to see. It’s not even the fact that you drink underage, but that you’re stupid enough to post it publicly.” Inappropriate behavior itself is a red flag to prospective colleges, but having the flawed judgement to broadcast it in the first place tells even more. Senior Jensen Haldrup believes that colleges have the right to view their applicants’ social media simply “‘cuz it’s public.” Senior Ben Auten agrees that “you choose what you put up online.”

Some argue that students’ personal lives should be kept separate from academics. Junior Nate LeRoy is one such dissenter, claiming that “it’s a violation of privacy.” Many are somewhere in the middle, saying that universities should be able to view anything public, but not to delve deeper. “They shouldn’t be adding you on Facebook or Snapchat. That’s just creepy,” comments senior Caroline Black.

The general consensus appears to be that students are responsible for what they post on the web, but the debate is ongoing. What do you think?