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Applying to University in the U.S.? Check Your Facebook!

Social media experts advise students looking to apply to university in the U.S., not to share anything of a religious, political or sexual nature on their social networking pages.

Are you applying to a U.S. college? Then keep your Facebook image squeaky clean.

About 25 percent of admissions officers at America’s top 500 colleges check Facebook profiles and use Google search to check out applicants, according to a Kaplan Test Prep survey. In 2008, when Kaplan began tracking this trend, only one in 10 admissions officers were looking at social networking pages as part of the admissions process.

“Schools are philosophically divided on whether an applicant’s digital trail is fair game, and the majority of admissions officers don’t look beyond the submitted application, but our advice to students is to think first, Tweet later,” Says Kaplan Test Prep Vice President of Data Science Jeff Olson.

While the number of admissions officers who took to Google and Facebook increased from last year, the percentage that said they discovered something that busted a student’s chances of gaining admission to that university, tripled — from 12 percent in 2011, to 35 percent this year.

Students applying to university, who post lurid details of their drunken nights on Facebook, can end up hurting their chances. Kaplan says U.S. universities have found unexpected vulgarities in blogs, alcohol consumption in photos, references to smoking pot, and essay plagiarism, when they researched the student applicant online.

“Social media used to basically mean Facebook, but the underlying trend we see is the increase in use of Google, which taps into a social media landscape that [has] proliferated to include Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging and other platforms,” says Olson.

“We’re seeing a young generation that’s grown up with a very fluid sense of privacy norms. In the face of all these trends, the rise in discovery of digital dirty laundry is inevitable,” he says.

Kaplan’s survey found that 15 percent of U.S. universities maintain some sort of policy regarding the researching of student’s social networking pages. Of these, 69 percent said the policy prohibited admissions officers from visiting applicant’s social networking pages, leaving the vast majority of admissions officers with flexibility to act at their own discretion.

“I advise people to take a deep breath before hitting that send button, and imagine what you are sending being a) on the front page of your daily newspaper, and b) being there forever,” says Social Media Expert and co-author of ‘Digital AssassinationMark W. Davis.

The advice is simple: avoid sharing anything of a religious, political, or sexual nature.

“Or better yet, put that email or post in your “Drafts” folder and sleep on it,” Says Davis.

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