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Students worry about how their social media page will affect their future

By Kelly Chian, ‘16

Seniors and freshmen alike are warned about their social media presence and the harm it could do to their future job and college prospects. With more colleges checking social media, students try harder to keep a clean profile.

According to US News & World Report’s survey of 403 admissions officers, 35 percent of admissions officers check a student’s social media page and 16 percent have found something that negatively affected their chances of admission.

Student Resource and Police Officer Jon Rice gives talks every year to freshmen about internet safety and being responsible with their online presence. Officer Rice wants students to consider the vast amount of people in varying professions that have their jobs taken away because of social media.

“Think of how many pageant winners have lost their crowns because of something that popped up in social media.” Officer Rice said. “How many cops, fireman, teachers, and politicians have been fired from jobs because of what they posted?”

Officer Rice wants students to have conversations with friends to prevent unflattering pictures from surfacing.

“My best advice for anyone on social media, keep it clean and be a nice person. Do not post pictures of you partying or doing illegal activities,” Officer Rice said. “Do not forget to pass this on to your friends. They can accidentally or purposely sabotage your reputation by posting pictures of you that they took.”

Officer Rice usually does not get involved with social media unless it affects other students.

“As a police officer and a school resource officer, it is my job to get involved in social media of others when it negatively affects a student’s ability to learn at school,” Officer Rice said. “I also get involved when it endangers the student or others.”

Junior Billy Hosket checks social media multiple times a day and posts monthly. He uses social media primarily for checking up on what his friends are doing.

“After learning that colleges possess additional abilities to see information on people’s profiles I made sure to never post anything questionable to give me the best opportunity to get into college that I want,” Hosket said.

After learning more about internet safety, Hosket tries to ensure a safe page for viewing.

“I always censor all of my posts because I understand the consequences of posting something that may go against the school guidelines or athletic code,” Hosket said. “The consequences can be very serious and I would hate to see myself get in trouble over posting an inappropriate picture or tweet.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Senior Katie Kang has zero posts on Instagram and spends at most five minutes daily looking at pictures of dogs and friends (in that order of importance).

“I don’t post anything because I have nothing to say,” Kang said. “I have never deleted anything because there is nothing.”

Because of her lack of social media presence, she doesn’t have much concern for what others and admissions officers will think of her pages.

“I don’t really care if admissions officers look at my social media, because there’s nothing to find,” Kang said.

Officer Rice believes that not posting on social media won’t have too much of a negative effect as it can be canceled out with a simple explanation.

“The school or employer could gleam that you are an introvert rather than an extrovert,” Officer Rice said. “If you are trying to get a sales job or public relations job that requires someone to be very vocal and out there, you may not get the job. You could counter that with a stellar in person interview and an explanation that you just don’t want to put your personal information out there.”

Hosket believes that all colleges have the right to see posts to have a better understanding of the applicants.

“I think they should be able to see your posts because if you’re too scared about them seeing something you post then you obviously shouldn’t have posted it,” Hosket said.

With lower admissions rates at schools, Hosket believes they can use social media as a deciding point.

“Also with how competitive it’s getting these days to get into premier schools, everything is a factor including your social media, so no I do not find it as an invasion of privacy,” Hosket said.

Hosket wants admissions officers to look at his profile because he believes his chances of being accepted will then increase.

“[Social media] gives them an honest perspective of who I am as a person through my posts, which may help me get into better schools,” Hosket said.

Kang doesn’t personally mind if they look but wants to be notified of it.

“It would be nice if a college informed students, but colleges do not have the obligation to do so,” Kang said.

Erin Holloway, an admissions officer at The Ohio State University, said that OSU, a school with over 40,000 applicants and 7,000 enrollments, does not check social media because of the amount of applications.

“Many large state schools like OSU do not have the time to check when there are tens of thousands of applicants,” Holloway said.

Even at a much smaller private schools, like Oberlin University, admissions officers still do not check social media pages according to  Liz Hui , admissions officer of Oberlin University.

“We do not look at students’ social media accounts as part of the application review process. We receive too many applications to look at individual accounts,” Hui said. “Social media therefore does not affect a student’s chances at getting admitted to the university.”

With applicants’ online presence easily searchable, it makes sense that some school use it as part of the application process.

“Many colleges and universities use a holistic approach to admissions, meaning that any number of factors can be reviewed to make an admissions decision” Hui said. “Since social media accounts and the content within are easily searchable if privacy settings are light, it’s possible that some institutions may create admissions policies that include social media in their holistic process.”

With the holistic approach, schools won’t admit someone based on their social media but it may be a factor.

“A prospective student’s social media content by itself may not be the reason for an admissions decision, but it could help the admissions committee form a clearer picture of the student,” Hui said.

Students should be wary of what they post online as it might show a negative side that the application never revealed.

“Posts that could be interpreted as offensive or crude may cause colleges and universities to consider whether that student would be a good community member on their campuses,” Hui said.

Kevin Shook, a practicing Columbus attorney in Interactive Media and Internet Law, and Media and First Amendment, discusses the legalities about colleges checking social media.

“If the applicant has posted information that is generally available to the public on social media, there is nothing that prevents admission officers from reviewing the page as part of the decision making process,” Shook said.

Shook’s solution to combat this is to raise the privacy settings.

“Applicants can prevent this from happening by selecting options on social media sites that makes the information they post only available to a closed group of friends,” Shook said. “Admissions officers or anyone outside the closed group cannot surreptitiously obtain access to information that is not public by misrepresenting their identity or improperly obtaining password information.”

Although there is not technically discrimination in looking at one student but not another’s social media, colleges should try to be as equal among students as possible.

“That being said, the best practice for a college or university would be to either look at social media for all their applicants or not look at social media for any of their applicants,” Shook said. “Treating all applicants consistently would help avoid any appearance or any argument of improper conduct.”

Since colleges legally have access to all public accounts, students should be careful but also realize that most schools will not check.