Reports show that a staggering three billion people worldwide are active on some form of social media, and with so many of us sharing our lives on the internet, the question remains—can we keep our private lives private when it comes to school applications?
That answer is more than likely ‘no’. Research from tutoring service Kaplan Test Prep shows that 40% of business schools will check their applicant’s social media platforms prior to making a decision on their application.
This is a drastic increase from Kaplan’s first survey of this type in 2011 when just 22% of business schools said they examined the social media posts of their applicants.
However, what you share on social media may not always hinder your application to business school.
The research from Kaplan—which also surveyed law schools—shows that 46% of business schools said that what they found on social media often aided an applicant’s admissions chances.
Admissions officers said that extracurricular activities like community service responsibilities, not always mentioned in a resume or application letter, improved an applicant’s standing in the eyes of the admissions officer.
Another example cited as being beneficial to an applicant’s chances was having detailed descriptions of work experience on LinkedIn, including links to relevant websites or videos of the applicant participating in extracurricular activities.
‘Sometimes the applicants fail to include details on the application like community involvement and/or volunteer work,’ one admissions officer said in the survey.
In these cases, the same admissions officer said, LinkedIn can be useful for getting a better picture of who the prospective student is.
‘We generally look at their LinkedIn profile only if we aren't sure about the applicant and are looking for additional information,’ they added.
But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only your LinkedIn that’s in danger of being seen.
Admissions officers also said that public posts on more personal sites such as Facebook or Twitter could also harm an applicant’s chances of getting into their chosen business school.
For example, unsavory personal photos or public comments on social media were cited as examples of problems that were often seen on the applicant’s social media channels.
In addition to this, misrepresenting your professional experience on public social media could also be your downfall.
So what’s the solution—play it safe and stay off social media entirely?
In the case of LinkedIn, admissions officers said, not having a page could actually make more of a bad impression than a badly presented one. Instead, it’s all about being conscious of what you share.
"While what you post is not nearly as important as the traditional factors in admissions processes like your standardized test scores and GPA, always be mindful of what you post," said Noah Teitelbaum, executive director of pre-business programs at Kaplan Test Prep.
"Your social media footprint can potentially give you an admissions boost, but in some cases, it can and will be used against you. Share wisely."