Official: Internet profiles not a factor in admissions

The university has no policy regarding admissions officials looking at applicants’ social networking Web sites despite an educational service company’s report that one in 10 admission officers from the nation’s top universities are doing so.

Kaplan Inc., a test prep and admission advising company, surveyed 320 admissions officers from the country’s top 500 universities as compiled by U.S. News & World Report and from Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. The participants were surveyed by telephone in July and August, according to a Sept. 18 press release from Kaplan.

Raymond Brown, dean of admissions, said the university has no policy regarding the use of an applicant’s social networking site, such as Facebook or MySpace, as a tool during the admission process. Kaplan reported that a majority of the schools surveyed have no official policies regarding the use of applicants’ social networking Web sites.

Among other reasons, it just isn’t practical, Brown said.

“It’s impossible to manage that type of activity with the size of our applicant pool,” Brown said. “Anyone who does that has an awful lot of time on his hands.”

He also said the one in 10 figure seems too high.

“I’m pretty plugged into this topic and I’m very plugged into this business, and no one is doing that routinely,” Brown said.

James Atwood, assistant to the dean of admissions, said he has never viewed an applicant’s Facebook or MySpace page.

“We selectively offer admission to those students we feel are personally and academically qualified to be here,” Atwood said. “In that regard, we make our decisions primarily on evidence from schools and students that presumably is secure and accurate.”

Although university admission officials don’t generally look at applicants’ Facebook or MySpace pages, Brown said if something on an applicant’s Web page is brought to the attention of admissions officers, they will inspect it.

Kedra Ishop, associate director of admissions at the University of Texas at Austin, said the school’s admission policies only address what admissions officers can look at during the decision-making process. Looking at an applicant’s social networking Web site is not prohibited, she said.

“We believe that our applicants are pursuing admission to UT-Austin based on a desire to become part of our student body,” Ishop wrote in an e-mail. “In doing so, we give as much respect to them as they do to us and focus our attention on their accomplishments, skills and the many other tangible facets of their academic, work and civic lives. We don’t interview applicants’ friends to determine if they are admissible. Likewise, we don’t visit their electronic social networks.”

Admission officials at Baylor University and Rice University also said they do not use social networking sites as a resource tool during the admission process, although both have no policy prohibiting admission officers from doing so.

Lauren Randle, a junior political science major, said she thinks it isn’t fair for admission officials to look at applicants’ Facebook or MySpace pages.

“I don’t think peoples’ social lives affect their academic abilities,” Randle said.

Liz Slagle, a sophomore political science major, disagreed and said what is posted voluntarily on the Internet is available to anyone, including admission officers.

“I think if you as a student are worried about what is on there, you should just privatize your settings,” Slagle said.

Kaplan reported that 38 percent of admissions officers surveyed said looking at applicants’ social networking sites generally had a negative impact on their evaluation. However, 25 percent said doing so generally had a positive impact, according to the release.

Kaplan also conducted surveys among admissions officers at law and medical schools. Admissions officers at 15 percent of law schools and 14 percent of medical schools surveyed reported having visited applicants’ social networking sites during the admission decision-making process, according to the press release.