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Kaplan Test Prep Survey: More College Admissions Officers Checking Applicants’ Digital Trails, But Most Students Unconcerned

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The percentages of college admissions officers who say they have Googled an applicant (29%) or visited an applicant’s Facebook or other social networking page to learn more about them (31%) have risen to their highest levels yet, according to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2013 survey of college admissions officers*. When Kaplan first began tracking this issue in 2008, barely 10% of admissions officers reported checking an applicant’s Facebook page. Last year, 27% had used Google and 26% had visited Facebook — up from 20% and 24%, respectively, in 2011.

“As social media has skyrocketed from being the domain of a younger generation to societal ubiquity, the perceived taboo of admissions officers checking applicants online has diminished,” said Seppy Basili, Vice President, Kaplan Test Prep. “Granted, most admissions officers are not tapping into Google or Facebook, and certainly not as a matter of course. But there’s definitely greater acknowledgment and acceptance of this practice now than there was five years ago.”

Despite the growth in online checking, however, there’s been a dip — to 30% this year from 35% in Kaplan’s 2012 survey — in the number of admissions officers reporting that they’re finding something that negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances. And notably, in a separate survey of college-bound students**, more than three-quarters said they would not be concerned if an admissions officer Googled them. In response to the question, “If a college admissions officers were to do an online search of you right now, how concerned would you be with what they found negatively impacting your chances of getting in?” 50% said they would be “Not at all concerned” while 27% said “Not too concerned.” Only 14% of students said they would be “Very concerned” while the remainder said they would be “Somewhat concerned.”

“Many students are becoming more cautious about what they post, and also savvier about strengthening privacy settings and circumventing search,” said Christine Brown, Executive Director of College Admissions programs, Kaplan Test Prep. Kaplan’s student survey also showed that 22% had changed their searchable names on social media, 26% had untagged themselves from photos, and 12% had deleted their social media profiles altogether.

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