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According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2011 survey of college admissions officers the number of college admissions officials using Facebook to learn more about an applicant has quadrupled in the past year, underscoring the effect social media has on U.S. culture and academic life.

I wonder if our young people are aware of this? Judging by some of the Facebook profiles I have seen lately I must assume they are not. Perhaps they are not concerned about what others think of them or they simply don’t care. But they should definitely know that what you post on Facebook can hurt you.

According to the report, almost a quarter (24%) of admissions officials at 359 selective colleges say they used Facebook, up from 6% the previous year, and 20% used Google to help evaluate an applicant. Of course they do.

Using Facebook allows admission officials to obtain information about prospective students that they may not be able to gain from an admissions application and using Facebook allows them to obtain the information at a very low cost. It’s free.

The report indicated that of the survey takers who went online, 12% say what they found “negatively impacted” the applicant’s chances of admission. That’s down from 38% in 2008, when 10% said they consulted social networking sites while evaluating students. Among offenses cited: essay plagiarism, vulgarities in blogs and photos showing underage drinking.

Unfortunately this does not surprise. Over the course of the past year, I have given several talks on the subject of digital reputation management to young people. I was prompted to do this after witnessing many of the examples mentioned above. Most of the students I have talked were unaware of the concept of digital reputation management.

Most of them are not aware of the damage they are doing to their reputations by what they are posting online on social media sites like Facebook. In recent weeks I have viewed pictures of young women that I would characterize to be of the genre of a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ video. This is not good.

I was shocked and appalled by what I saw, not to mention the fact that they were on Facebook for public consumption. Some people even use racial slurs or profanity in their status updates. Really? Perhaps they don’t care. But in case they do, please know that employers and now colleges are viewing what you post on Facebook and using it to judge your worthiness as a student and employee.

For those who have aspirations to attend college please take heed. Many university enrollment officials say such checks are not routine — it’s too time consuming, for one thing. But “if ever a post is brought to our attention, you can be certain we’ll check it out,” says Ray Brown, admission dean at Texas Christian University. He says he rejected one applicant who, he discovered through an anonymous tip, had posted pornographic image of herself online.

Lets digest that shall we. A college applicant posted pornographic images of herself on Facebook and was denied admission to college. I am sure there is a lesson about protecting your reputation there. Isn’t it hard enough to be admitted to college. Why give an admissions official an extra reason to reject your application. Please think about what you are posting on Facebook and understand that folks in positions of power may be watching and the consequences are very real!

 Kai Dupé is a doctoral student at Pepperdine University where he is conducting research on Why African American Males Are Underrepresented in Computing. Kai can be reached by email at or by visiting his website at or follow him on twitter @KaiDupe

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