Social networking sites an asset to college admissions officers

By Sarah Feng

Washington Square News, New York U. via UWIRE

Teresa Rudd wasn’t sure whether she wanted to attend NYU, but logging on to Facebook helped make her decision a little bit easier.

“Social media helped attract me to NYU a little because talking to other people who were applying or people who were already at NYU made me more sure that it was where I wanted to go,” the incoming Steinhardt freshman said.

Though she said that she ultimately made her decision after visiting the campus, using social media was helpful for her.

Rudd is one of many students turning to universities’ social media sites to help make their college decisions, and it might not be a coincidence.

According to a recent Schools.com survey of admissions officers from several top universities, 70 percent of college admissions offices listed Facebook as a high or medium priority recruiting channel, followed closely by Twitter, which is a priority for 56 percent of schools.

NYU is among the schools going online to attract students.

“NYU’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions has, in fact, increased its use of social media, primarily using Facebook as a vehicle to communicate with both prospective and admitted students,” NYU Vice President of Admissions Shawn Abbott said. “Admitted students, for example, make heavy use of the Class of 2015 profile on Facebook, which serves as a forum for students to learn more about admitted student events, housing and life at NYU.”

Many students are also using sites like College Confidential to talk with other students applying to schools they are looking at.

“Facebook groups and sites such as Collegeconfidential.com help people get a sense of the community and people that go to NYU and ask specific questions that can be answered frankly, honestly and quickly,” Laura Butvinik, an incoming Tisch freshman, said.

Others, however, are trying to use social media to help their admissions chances. Kemet Dugue, one of this year’s successful applicants, sent college admissions officers links to his blog posts.

“Even though I can’t say it directly improved my chances of getting into NYU, I know it put myself in a different perspective as an applicant,” he said. “Used in the correct way, social media can help in the admissions process.”

But just as easily as a student can access immediate information about a university, an admissions officer can do the same. According to the same Kaplan survey, one in 10 admissions officers said they visited an applicant’s social networking site. Abbott said NYU will only do this if they are given reason to do so.

“Though we certainly have better uses of our time than trolling Facebook for evidence of deviant behavior, if we’re prompted to look at a website posting and what we find is in conflict with our standards for admission, of course we may be influenced by that information in making admission decisions or revoking decisions already made,” he said.

Abbott cited situations in which “evidence of illegal activity, academic integrity violations and racist commentary” would prompt a revoked admissions offer. According to the Kaplan survey, 38 percent of admissions officers surveyed said applicants’ social networking sites had a negative impact on their admissions evaluation.

But Sunny Lee, an incoming freshman from Seoul, Korea, who is preparing for her college experience in a new country, has found Facebook to be a helpful resource.

“I found it really helpful and effective how prospective students were communicating with each other and discussing college issues,” she said. “[It lets me] keep updated with everything and make new friends.”

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