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Facebook in the college admissions process

Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick is a freelance writer and editor who contributes regularly to SheKnows, MintLife, AOL, iVillage and other sites. In her articles, Elizabeth covers a variety of subjects including relationships, pregnancy, paren...

Watch what you post

As one of the most popular social networking platforms, Facebook has begun to take on a role in the college admissions process. Here’s how potential students can use, not abuse, Facebook when considering its place in their higher education endeavors.

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Facebook is used by many university departments as a way to connect with past, present and future students. However, as with all social media, there are do's and don'ts that potential students should follow, especially regarding Facebook's place in the college admissions process.

College admissions trends: To friend or not to friend?

According to Kristen Campbell, executive director of college prep programs for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, their recent annual survey of college admissions officers found that most schools use Facebook to recruit students.

But, she notes, some admissions officers said they found it odd when a prospective student sent a friend request. While it may seem like a good idea to get buddy-buddy with an admissions counselor, friending them on Facebook could backfire. "If it looks like admissions officers at a particular school have Facebook pages and interact with applicants on these pages, it's probably OK [to send a friend request]," says Campbell. However, "if admissions officers don't have Facebook pages – or their pages have private settings or are not directly affiliated with the university – it's probably not a good idea to send a friend request."

Social media mistakes in the college admissions process

Even if you have no plans to send a friend request to a college admissions counselor, what you display on your own Facebook page is still up for review. You want to stand out in your quest to gain admission to the university of your choice – but you don't want to stand out for the wrong reasons.

David Petersam, founder and president of AdmissionsConsultants.com, believes Facebook is far more likely to harm than help an applicant's chances for admission. "Admissions officers can, and sometimes do, check profiles, particularly of bubble applicants," he explains, referring to those applicants who are just on the border of being admitted – or not. "Most admissions officers believe that being too active on Facebook demonstrates a lack of interpersonal skills."

Proceed with caution before posting that questionable photo, poorly worded comment or off-color joke on your wall. Even if you're conscientious about online etiquette, Petersam strongly recommends setting your Facebook account to private. "Students should make sure that anything they post online presents the image they want to project as an applicant," adds Campbell.

How Facebook figures into online college admissions

Alexa Scordato is the community manager for the University of Southern California's online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. "Facebook is one of our most effective recruitment tools. We've grown our page to over 6,000 fans," she says.

While Scordato often fields messages from prospective students, the program's fan page is staffed by admissions counselors who respond to prospective students' comments directly on the page or answer questions specifically related to the application process. While Scordato believes Facebook is a great place to seek opinions from enrolled students and alumni, "an admissions counselor should be the primary point of contact during the application process. There's no substitute for individualized attention or real-time conversations."

Whether applying to an online or brick-and-mortar school, the same social media do's and don'ts apply: Work within the parameters a school has set for interaction with their admissions department – and closely monitor the activities of your own Facebook page.

Inside the Admissions Office

Can what you post on Facebook affect your college admission?

The Wall Street Journal presents "Inside The Admissions Office." Students across America sent in their questions, and expert deans of admissions from eight top colleges provide the real answers. In this clip we asked our panel whether admissions deans really look at students' social networking accounts. Our panelists reveal Facebook do's and don'ts for college applicants.

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