Kaplan Test Prep Survey: Social Media Checks By College Admissions Officers Decline Due to Savvier Applicants and Shifting Attitudes

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Press Contact: Russell Schaffer, russell.schaffer@kaplan.com, 212.453.7538
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Kaplan Test Prep's 2018 college admissions officers survey finds that 25 percent of them visit applicants' social pages to learn more about them, a decline from 40 percent three years ago.

Kaplan Test Prep’s 2018 college admissions officers survey finds that 25 percent of them visit applicants’ social pages to learn more about them, a decline from 40 percent three years ago.

(November 27, 2018) — A new Kaplan Test Prep survey finds that for the third year in a row, the percentage of college admissions officers who visit applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them has declined, with only a quarter (25 percent) saying they do so, down from a high of 40 percent in 2015*. One possible contributing reason? They can’t find them.

Of the admissions officers who say they have visited applicants’ social media profiles, a majority (52 percent) say that students have become savvier about hiding their social media presence over the past few years or moving away from social communities where what they post is easy to find by people they don’t know. According to a 2018 report by research firm Piper Jaffray, about 85 percent of teens say they use both Instagram and Snapchat — two platforms which make it easy to share posts with people you want and hard to find for people you don’t — at least once per month. This compares to just 36 percent of teens who use Facebook once per month, a decrease from 60 percent two years ago. 

Another factor may be a shift in attitudes about checking social media. While 57 percent say that it’s “fair game” for them to visit applicants’ social media profiles like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to help them decide who gets in, it represents a significant drop from the 68 percent who held this view in Kaplan’s 2017 survey. Notably, students have been generally more accepting of this practice than admissions officers; in a separate Kaplan survey completed earlier this year, 70 percent said they believe it’s “fair game” for admissions officers to check social media.

As one admissions officers stated, “Unless it’s a matter of checking on something that might be a hate crime or endangering other people, then it becomes a safety issue, but otherwise it’s a privacy issue.”

Yariv Alpher, Kaplan Test Prep’s executive director of research, who has been tracking this issue for a number of years, thinks many factors explain the change of attitude and practice in admissions officers. “We’re seeing the result of combining trends here. On the one hand, students are savvier. They are more careful with what they post and are increasingly using more private social networks. In some cases they also create fake accounts that they only share with friends, but which are not easily attributed to them. On the other hand, admissions officers are increasingly conscious of the need to maintain students’ privacy, and are more inclined to use social media in a more targeted way. Regardless, social media remains an admissions factor for a significant number of colleges, so students should be mindful of what they share.”

Alpher continues to advise students to be thoughtful about what they post, like making a snap decision and posting an opinion that others may find offensive. He also cautions about spending weeks on perfecting a video library on YouTube in the hopes that admissions officers will organically come across it — he suggests applicants call it out to them instead. “Even as technology has allowed college admissions officers to discover more information about their prospective students, it seems they are sticking with the traditional elements of the application to help them make enrollment decisions, like standardized test scores, GPA, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. These factors overwhelmingly decide applicants’ paths. Social media remains a wildcard, though from our research, a somewhat diminishing one. We’ll be tracking to see if this trend continues or reverses.”

To speak with a college admissions expert at Kaplan Test Prep, please contact Russell Schaffer at russell.schaffer@kaplan.com or 212.453.7538.

*364 admissions officers from the nation’s top national, regional and liberal arts colleges and universities – as compiled from U.S. News & World Report – were polled by telephone between July and August 2018.

About Kaplan Test Prep

Kaplan Test Prep (www.kaptest.com) is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry. With a comprehensive menu of online offerings as well as a complete array of print books and digital products, Kaplan offers preparation for more than 100 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school, as well as professional licensing exams for attorneys, physicians and nurses. Among those tests are the SAT®, PSAT®, ACT®, GRE®, GMAT®, LSAT®, MCAT®, NCLEX-RN® and bar exams. Kaplan also provides private tutoring and graduate admissions consulting services.

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