By Allison MatlackGateHouse News Service Posted Nov 11, 2009 @ 12:00 PM
After months of listening to their pleading, I let my children open Facebook accounts with two provisos - that I had to be the first person that they "friended," and that I had to have complete access to their accounts.
I will say that I am not particularly interested in the fact that a Black Sheep has wandered onto my son's farm in Farmville or that my daughter is a fan of the "Dislike Button," but I do care quite a bit about how they are portraying themselves to their hundreds of friends, and to the rest of the world, who might check out their Facebook pages.
I am particularly concerned about the role that social networking will play in their college admissions processes.
Relatively new territory with no rules to guide behavior or standards for protocol, colleges are just beginning to figure out how to use social networking tools such as MySpace and Facebook in their admissions decisions. With concerns about the ethical and legal implications of using this information to inform their admissions decisions, most schools tend to stay away.
Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions recently sent out surveys to 500 prestigious colleges and universities asking about their policies concerning the use of information gained from social networking sights in admissions decisions. Only 10 percent of the 320 schools that replied admitted to looking at applicants' Facebook and MySpace pages. Of those schools, 38 percent said that it had a negative impact on their admissions decisions.
However, while most schools do not routinely check social network sights, there are a few things that might compel an admissions officer to take a closer look. An applicant who has been dismissed or suspended from school or who has engaged in any activity that throws their character into question is likely to draw a red flag. Students who are recruited athletes or candidates for scholarship money should be particularly careful. And even those who fall into none of these categories need to beware as colleges will act on anonymous tips, typically from a competing applicant.
While it may seem like common sense to keep personal, social information away from the eyes of college admissions officers, it is not uncommon for prospective applicants to "friend" their admissions counselor. While few colleges have an explicit "Do Not Friend" policy, most colleges follow this rule in an effort to keep the line between social and professional connections from blurring. Just as admissions officers don't want information students post to adversely affect their admissions decisions, neither do they want applicants to have a window into their own personal lives.
If a student wants to communicate with an admissions officer, the best way is through e-mail, and addresses are easily found on college admissions Web pages. Although Web etiquette continues to evolve, e-mail should be treated as formal correspondence, addressed as such and containing information that is pertinent to the student's application and professional in tone.
Reprinted with permission from Metrowest Daily News.