Colleges shouldn’t be allowed to spy on applicants’ social media

Application process high stress increased with additional worry

Every year, high school students undergo major stress when applying to colleges. Everything a student works for in their academics culminates in the application process: grades, grade point average, extracurriculars, and test scores. This pivotal step in students’ future is already filled with pressure and worries. However, students today have an even more harrowing experience with the admissions process because of  the rise of technology and the influence of social media. 

Universities should not be allowed to look through prospective students’ social media accounts because it creates personal biases and skewed perceptions of the student.

According to a survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, some 25 percent of colleges and universities in the United States review prospective students’ social media profiles. This is about 1,325 colleges that look through social media out of the 5,300 total colleges in the nation. 

“Implicit biases are created when colleges look through a students’ social media. People should get into college based on grades and academics because social media can give someone either an advantage or a disadvantage,” Miramonte junior Madeline Park said. 

Despite a students’ stellar application and academic record, what colleges and universities see on applicants’ social media accounts influences their ultimate decision as to whether or not a student is accepted into the school.

The review of social media by college admissions officers makes it harder for students today to get into college than for students who applied decades ago before social media existed. Every year, the admissions rates of universities fall because of the increasing population and the harsh competitive atmosphere. According to the Yale University website, in the 1970s, the acceptance rate of Yale University was  around 25 percent, while today, the number is considerably lower at 6.3 percent. In 1976, 9,387 students applied and 2,481 were accepted compared to in 2018, when 35,307 students applied and 2,241 were accepted. 

Colleges have gotten more selective over time. Students don’t need the further stress of colleges looking through their social media profiles, especially since many things, such as a party they attended or a statement they made, can be misinterpreted or taken out of context by admissions officers. 

“When colleges are building their admitted classes they are looking at which students will fit into the mission and values of the institution. Social media accounts are an extension of the person that colleges and also employers can look at to learn more about a person,” Miramonte college and career counselor Stephanie Brady said.

Some students may choose to send a link to their social media profiles to boost their applications. 

“My art Instagram account is a creative outlet for me and a way to look back at how I have improved. I am considering going to an art college and this account would be beneficial because they can see my growth in my art throughout the years,” junior Aki Yoshie said.

Understanding an applicant’s talents should be the only instance in which admissions offices consider social media, allowing it to become a tool for students to showcase their personal skills and interests, such as art, singing, and sports. In this case, the student has granted permission to the university to view their social media, avoiding the implications of invasion of privacy when colleges go through someone’s posts without their knowledge and consent.

Some might argue that colleges are looking for more interesting aspects of students through their social media to help decide if the student would be the right fit for the school. However, the tricky thing about social media is that nothing shared online ever truly disappears. If a student posted something negative in the past but has since deleted the post or comment and learned from the experience, colleges can see that one incident and judge a student based on it without giving the student a chance to explain how they have since grown and learned. 

Although someone might delete a post, anyone who has already seen it could have screenshotted it and exposed it to others, spreading copies of the post. 

Social media does not remain hidden for long, as shown by the revoking of university admission to Harvard of ten students in 2017 due to the obscene and discriminatory language Harvard found in a Facebook group chat. 

While slurs, derogatory language, and hateful terms are never acceptable and are worth a revoked admission to a college or university, something as simple as a party where underage drinking occurred should not affect admissions offices’ perception of a student who attended. 

“If colleges feel the need to look up the student’s socials, then the student clearly didn’t do a very good job presenting themselves on their application. I understand the argument surrounding cyberbullying and racial biases, but that should only come into play after the school has been directly notified of the incident,” Miramonte senior Clara Holland said. T

The application should be the only thing a college should be reviewing when considering a potential student. 

Once admitted, it’s a different situation.

Colleges should only look at social media if they are made aware of a cyberbullying incident that a student was involved in. Colleges should have the right to look at a students’ social media if the applicant was involved in the sharing of seriously negative or derogatory statements made on a platform. However, colleges should defer looking at students’ social media after they have been accepted to create an unbiased atmosphere during the college admissions process.