Kaplan Survey: College Admissions Officers Increasingly Say Applicants’ Social Media Content is “Fair Game”

Note to editors: Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC)
Press Contact: Russell Schaffer, russell.schaffer@kaplan.com, 917.822.8190

Twitter: @KapEdNews, @KaplanSATACT

New York, NY (January 28, 2021) ⁠— Kaplan’s 2020 college admissions officers survey shows that a growing percentage of admissions officers think that it’s “fair game” for them to visit applicants’ social media pages to help them decide who gets in*. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the 300-plus college admissions officers surveyed see no issue with social media being part of the admissions equation, a point of view that has gained support in recent years. In Kaplan’s 2019 survey, 59 percent of admissions officers reported a “fair game” view, while the 2018 survey found it to be 57 percent. On the flip side, 35 percent of admissions officers consider viewing applicants’ social media “an invasion of privacy and shouldn’t be done.” 

The survey results come on the heels of teens increasingly using newer social platforms like TikTok, which recently surpassed Instagram as teenagers’ second favorite social media app; SnapChat remains number one. 

Among other survey findings:

  • The survey found that 36 percent of admissions officers polled visit applicants’ social media profiles like Facebook, TiKTok, and Instagram to learn more about them⁠—holding steady from Kaplan’s 2019 survey, but up significantly from 25 percent in Kaplan’s 2018 survey.
  • Of admissions officers who have checked out an applicant’s social media footprint, about 17 percent say they do it “often,” about the same as in 2019’s survey, but significantly higher than the 11 percent in Kaplan’s 2015 survey. 
  • Of the admissions officers who say they check social media, 42 percent say that what they found has had a positive impact on prospective students, up from 38 percent in 2019. On the flip side, 58 percent say that what they found had a negative impact, up significantly from 32 percent in 2019.

“We’ve been tracking the role of social media in the college admissions process since 2008 and while it’s clear that admissions officers are becoming philosophically more comfortable with the idea of visiting applicants’ social media profiles as an evaluating factor, in practice, the majority still don’t do it. Most will tell you that while social profiles shouldn’t be off limits, they are much more focused on evaluating prospective students on the traditional admissions factors like GPA, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, admissions essay, and extracurriculars,” says Isaac Botier, executive director of college admissions programs, Kaplan. 

“The upshot is that applicants’ social media content remains a wildcard in the admissions process, with what they post possibly being the tipping point of whether or not they’re admitted. Our consistent advice to teens is to remain careful and strategic about what they decide to share. In the age of COVID, for example, how might an admissions officer react to seeing a photo of you in a large group of friends, with local social distancing and safety precautions not being followed? These are things applicants didn’t have to think about last cycle, but may have to do so now.”

To schedule an interview about the survey results, contact Russell Schaffer at 917.822.8190 or russell.schaffer@kaplan.com

*313 admissions officers 301 from the nation’s top national, regional and liberal arts colleges and universities – as compiled from U.S. News & World Report – were polled by e-mail between September 16 and September 29, 2020. Percentages are rolled up to the nearest whole number.

About Kaplan

Kaplan is a global educational services company that provides individuals, universities, and businesses with a diverse array of services, including higher and professional education, test preparation, language training, corporate and leadership training, and student recruitment, online enablement and other university support services. With operations in nearly 30 countries, Kaplan serves nearly 1.1 million students each year and has partnerships with 2,000-plus universities, colleges, and schools/school districts, and more than 4,000 businesses globally. Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC). For more information, please visit www.kaptest.com.   

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