Admission officers deny ‘friending’ prospective students

A recent survey by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions revealed that 71 percent of admissions officers at some of the nation’s top universities have received MySpace or Facebook friend requests from prospective students seeking a competitive edge, but admissions staff at the university said they do not respond to such requests while the student’s admission status is still pending.

Lauren Nixon, an admissions counselor with a Facebook page, said that she, as well at least three or four other admissions counselors, has received friend requests from prospective students.

Nixon said she will accept a student’s friend request only after the student has been admitted to the university. The request would be left pending if the student was not accepted, Nixon said.

The Kaplan survey showed only a small number of admissions officers consider an applicant’s social network profile and that the information on these sites may not be beneficial to the prospective student. According to the survey, 21 percent of the schools surveyed had developed policies regarding university officials’ relationships with prospective students on social networking sites.

Elizabeth Rainwater, director of admissions marketing and communication, said she knew of no policy that had been discussed at the university. For now, the university’s policy is demonstrating professionalism, she said.

“I think it’s just sort of assumed that, unless they are an admitted student, we don’t want to give anyone false hope,” Rainwater said.

Victor Neil, director of Web site management, said he also knows of university admissions counselors who have Facebook accounts, and that the admissions counselors do look at the university’s Facebook page.

The social networking sites are used more for general information than strictly for admissions purposes, Neil said. Students and parents have used the university’s Facebook site as a way to get a quick response to pressing questions, he said.

“We’ve had people who are coming to campus and need a map, and they’ve waited to the last minute or things like that,” he said.

Though some universities, such as Hofstra University in New York, created admissions-specific social networking accounts, new media specialist Amy Peterson said she manages TCU’s Facebook and Twitter sites differently.

“We use Facebook as a way to have a conversation with current students,” she said.

Peterson said she relays questions from Facebook that she is unable to answer to the admissions office, but the admissions counselors have no direct contact with the students who asked these questions.

Prospective students sent more questions regarding deadlines, financial aid and general admissions questions to the university’s Twitter account, Peterson said.

“(Twitter) gets used a lot as a help place, like a help desk,” Peterson said.

Rainwater said the university’s Facebook fan base spanned wider than prospective students. Most of the fans on the university’s Facebook site are college students or alumni.

However, admissions counselors do promote the university’s social networking sites, Rainwater said.

“As part of our marketing process we send an e-mail out to all of our prospective students that we have e-mail for…and we provide them with direct links to the Facebook fan page, the Twitter page and the Flickr page, which we actually use really frequently,” Rainwater said.

Rainwater said that the addition of an admissions-specific Web site would make finding information confusing.

“We really feel like, in terms of communicating students, the official university Facebook page that Amy Peterson manages is just a central location for all information,” Rainwater said.