Campus Bound: Think before you Facebook

Meredith Eastman

Among many things that students need to consider when applying to college is how technology can help, or hinder, their admissions chances.

Most high school students have e-mail addresses and are frequent users of instant messaging, the Internet, and various social networks like Facebook or MySpace. Technology provides incredible access to information, college research and social networking. However, students must remember that technology can work against them if they aren’t careful.

Consider the many social networking sites that students use to keep in touch with their friends. Many post photos of themselves and others on sites like Facebook without thinking about who might eventually be looking at these photos.

Contrary to popular opinion, adults can, and many do, have accounts on these youthful social networking sites. Admissions officers are often particularly in touch with student communication and check these sites frequently to learn more about students they have met in interviews or through college applications.

As a result, students should be sure to check their privacy settings on these sites and not only restrict photo visibility, but remove any potentially inappropriate photos posted by themselves or their friends.

Imagine that you are carefully selecting the freshman class for a prestigious university. In looking up an applicant online you come across a few “party scene” photos with beer bottles or plastic cups in the background (and don’t kid yourselves, admissions officers won’t assume that plastic cups contain harmless punch). Or consider the many photos that could easily be misinterpreted by someone who wasn’t present when the photo was taken.

For example, one recent student reviewed her photos with her mother to provide a fresh eye and was shocked when her mom pointed out a picture of her holding a bag of white rock candy. The student hadn’t noticed that, in fact, the rock candy could very easily be mistaken for something much less innocent, and she promptly removed that photo from her Facebook page. In this tough admissions landscape, photos like these could easily be the difference between an acceptance and a rejection.

Additionally, many students should consider creating a new, appropriate e-mail address to use on college applications.

E-mail addresses can raise red flags to admissions folks — would you want to admit students with screen-names of “sexychica,” “meathead226,” or even “xoteddybearxo?” An e-mail address might seem like a minor piece of identification, but even something as insignificant as a username can cause an admissions officer to pre-judge a student before even reviewing the transcript and other application materials.

If an admissions officer already questions a student’s judgment, maturity or intelligence, any minor misstep on the transcript, essay or recommendations could seem more substantial than it actually is.

Today’s technology has streamlined the college application process in many ways and has dramatically increased access to admissions information, but remember to be cautious. Use the Web, e-mail, and social networking sites to your advantage, but take precautions so your admissions chances aren’t hurt along the way.

Meredith Eastman is the associate director of college counseling at Campus Bound, a Lexington, Mass.-based company providing college admissions counseling, financial aid advising, and test preparation. She has previously worked in college admissions and high school guidance. To learn more or to read previous articles by Ms. Eastman, visit www.campusbound.com.