Despite a national trend of college admissions officers researching applicants on social media, Texas Tech University said it’s admission’s process doesn’t check applicants’ social media profiles.
Kaplan Test Prep surveyed nearly 400 college admissions officers nationwide about their use of social media. The results of that survey were released on January 13, finding that a record high of 40 percent of the admissions officers said they visit applicants’ social media pages to learn more about them. While more admissions officials are using social networks to learn about applicants, they aren’t necessarily doing checks of applicants’ Facebook accounts all the time. Out of those surveyed, 89 percent say they use social media to look at applicants’ social networks, “rarely” and only 11 percent say they do so “often”
Some of the officers surveyed said that while they used social media to double-check students’ achievements, in some cases, students would send admissions officials links to their accounts to showcase things like art and music. Some officers in the survey even noted that they received anonymous tips about prospective students, encouraging officers to look at social media before admitting them.
Texas Tech admissions officers have heard about these trends before.
“I wasn’t surprised by the statistics at all because social media is everywhere, and we have a tendency in our everyday life to just be on social media and check it,” said Jamie Hansard, director of recruitment and marketing for undergraduate admissions at Texas Tech. Hansard has been working in admissions for seventeen years.
But Texas Tech doesn’t seem to be following the trends the Kaplan study highlights.
“We do not use social media as a factor to render admissions decisions here at Texas Tech, we use a review process to review all of our application files, so we want to make sure we are fair and don’t make any assumptions about any students,” Hansard said. “As a state university we want to make sure we provide access and opportunity to all of our students, and we don’t want to make an assumption about a student that doesn’t have a social media profile. Maybe they don’t have access or something of that nature.”
Hansard believes that students shouldn’t have their social media profiles (or lack thereof) count against them in the admissions process. She added that social media is complicated for admissions officers because it’s not a tool they can use to evaluate every applicant.
“You also have to keep in mind the volume that we have [at Texas Tech]– for freshman students alone, we receive almost 23 thousand applications– so the volume would not even allow us to be searching social media profiles,” Hansard explained. She said that with Texas Tech’s application review process, each application is reviewed by multiple admissions staff members. She estimates that the total review process takes around 30 minutes per applicant.
Hansard said the admissions officers she’s met who use social media to learn about applicants tend to come from smaller schools or private universities.
Amongst her admissions colleagues around the country, Hansard said that social media has presented plenty of new questions for their line of work. She has heard many officers wondering where to draw the line between respecting a student’s freedom to post online and garnering information which could be important to admissions decisions.
Hansard believes more universities could be adopting social media as part of their admissions process soon.
“There’s several different platforms and vendors that are creating opportunities for students to create virtual resumes, ” she said. “Part of that is they are able to link all their social media profiles onto that resume, so it makes it a very concise process for the application reviewer.”
Phillip Martinez, a Tech Sophomore, said that when he applied to college in 2013 he expected schools might look at his social media pages.
“I knew that what I posted might potentially get me in trouble in the future, so I didn’t post anything bad or do anything bad, period,” Martinez said. “But there were some of my friends that did post bad things, people are going to look at that, not just in your future education, but also your in your profession.”
He said that social media screening of applicants could help weed out prospective students who might reflect poorly on universities.
“It could be a good thing, just so [those applicants] don’t make the university look bad, [universities] have a right to do it,” Martinez said.
But he also agreed that Texas Tech’s social-media blind admissions seems to give applicants a fair chance.
Hansard added that while the TTU doesn’t review students’ social media pages for admissions, they certainly review the social media pages of their own potential employees– even students who work with the admissions office.
She advised that college applicants use caution with social media, because in this day and age you never know when your private memories could become public knowledge.
“I think as a general rule you should always be cautious about what you’re putting on social media. Just because Texas Tech doesn’t use it in college admissions, as Kaplan shows us, 40 percent of college admission professionals are reviewing social media profiles,” Hansard said. “So wherever you’re applying for admission, they could potentially be looking at your social media profile.”