Despite the prevalence of social media, college admissions officers are relying less on applicants’ social media profiles when making enrollment decisions, according to a new set of surveys by Kaplan Test Prep.
Kaplan surveyed 388 college admissions leaders and 914 high school students who had attended a Kaplan course. They found that 68% of admissions counselors believe checking applicants’ social media profiles is “fair game,” though only 29% had actually done so. In a similar survey last year, 35% of admissions officers reported checking prospective students’ social media profiles.
Kaplan also found that 70% of students expect admissions officers to visit their online profiles, compared with 58% last year.
So what accounts for this change? While many admissions officers believe online profiles should be taken into consideration since they’re publicly accessible, some see these searches as an “invasion of privacy,” and believe they are irrelevant to the admissions process.
Plus “students are harder to find,” explains Yariv Alpher, executive director of research for Kaplan Test Prep. Many Gen Zers are turning away from traditional social platforms—like Facebook—in favor of “non-archival” platforms like Snapchat.
And today’s students are more careful about what they put online. “They’ve gotten savvier in hiding or curating their social media footprints, even as they’ve become very comfortable with the notion of having a digital presence to begin with,” Alpher notes.
But for the most part, colleges simply believe in “sticking with the traditional elements of the application,” according to Alpher. Some colleges have even prohibited admissions officers from checking applicants’ social media accounts.
Many employers are making a similar shift. HR experts argue that social media is not only irrelevant to a candidate’s qualifications, but also that checking online profiles may invite discrimination (Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, 4/24; Maurer, Society for Human Resource Management, 4/23).
Related: How social media connects underrepresented students to college