the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Alice Liu ’23
The first two years of high school flew by amid a couple of AP classes and occasional exams. Then junior year arrived with pre-ACT, pre-SAT, and emails from colleges. As the college application process nears, an article caught my attention:
“They Loved Your GPA Then They Saw Your Tweets”
Bowdoin College rejected a student after reading the negative remarks she made about the college on Twitter.
This incident is not isolated. Colgate revoked its offer of admissions after discovering a post of the student driving under the influence of alcohol. An athlete who had been accepted to Cornell had his offer rescinded after a Snapchat video in which he used a racial slur went viral. College admissions include applicants’ social media profiles in their decision-making process, and the popularity of this practice has increased significantly in recent years.
The latest Kaplan survey of college admissions found that 36% of admissions officers, up from 25% in 2018, have visited applicants’ social media profiles for additional information. Although it may not be officially listed as part of the submission, social media has become an increasingly important supplement.
An alarm has been raised over the likelihood of an infringement on privacy with college admissions checking applicants’ social media. But social media platforms offer the option to keep accounts private. Some argue that if we make them public, how could it be inappropriate for admissions officers to access them?
What many have found to be more unsettling about the practice is that it encourages high school students to risk their authenticity for the sake of increasing their chances of acceptance. While colleges claim that they are only checking for inappropriate content, the implication of this practice is increasing scrutiny. Just as the emphasis on test scores has propelled students to hire tutors to boost their scores, college admissions checking applicants’ social media profiles will push students to curate their online personae to enhance their college application. The practice also reveals an ominous trend: in 100 years, college admissions have evolved from being lenient with scholastic achievements to checking SAT, ACT, AP scores, and now ... social media profiles. Given this trend, what is the next item college admissions are going to look at? Our comments on social media? As location tracking becomes increasingly advanced, will they check the places we have visited?
According to Wake Forest, students should focus on “being the best person instead of the best candidate.” Similarly, Harvard proposes we strive for “kindness instead of overachieving.” Ultimately, if colleges want to encourage high school students toward their stated goals, omitting their applicants' social media profiles in their decision process may be a way to encourage that.