The New Admissions Test

Posted by M ws On Friday, November 16, 2012 0 comments

Judging by its Facebook network, Hastings High School in New York has one strange senior class. A student named “FunkMaster Floikes” is somehow rubbing shoulders with Lizzie McGuire and the fictional parents from That ‘70s Show. Meanwhile Samwise Gams (a nickname of a hobbit in Lord of the Rings) is listed as a 2012 alum.

At first glance, such social media profiles have all the makings of crude online pranks. But in reality, they have been strategically created by actual Hastings seniors determined to shield themselves from the prying eyes of college admissions officers. “There’s a fairly big party scene there,” says Sam “Samwise” Bogan, who is now a freshman at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. “When the college search process comes around, people start changing their Facebook name or untagging old photos that they don’t want anyone to see. It’s kind of a ritual.”

Amid decades-old worries about GPAs, resumes, extracurricular activities and campus interviews, today’s college applicants must reckon with a new high-tech dilemma: Are colleges judging me based on my online activities? With top schools closely guarding the reasoning behind admissions decisions, many high schoolers are now assuming the worst and implementing online safeguards that would have never occurred to teenagers five years ago, when Facebook was just a private network and Google was still a noun.

It turns out students have good reason to worry. According to a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of 350 admissions officers, more than 25 percent of school officials said they had looked up applicants on Facebook or Google. Off campus, a similar percentage of private scholarship organizations also acknowledge researching their applicants online, according to a National Scholarship Providers Association survey. Still, many admissions directors are reluctant to provide specifics in how they scour social feeds. No, many say, they don’t look up every applicant online, but yes, if they somehow come across an inappropriate tweet or Facebook post, it could factor into their decision. No, they’d never use it as the deciding factor between two similar applicants, but yes, students should be mindful of what they post.

Such ambiguity has sparked an array of conspiracy theories. Bogan speculates that colleges use the emails they gather on campus tours to later find students online, even if they’ve changed their names to cover their tracks. Other students openly claim that schools are colluding with Facebook to gain full access to applicants’ restricted online profiles. Meanwhile, some students worry that going dark on Facebook will make them seem anti-social,when colleges are actually looking for outgoing applicants.

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