Want to Go to College? Watch What You Post Online

A recent survey by Kaplan Test Prep says that schools are finding more online material that damages applicants' chances of admission -- three times as much, in fact, as they found last year.

The percentage of admissions officers who checked Google and Facebook also increased slightly, but not enough to account for the jump. Last year, only 20 percent of admissions staff checked Google, while this it was 27 percent; Facebook was 26 percent for 2011 and 26 percent again for 2012. The discoveries of deal-breaking online material, however, went from 12 percent last year to 35 percent this year. Which means that no matter how you slice it, students are posting more stuff online that could potentially damage their chances of getting into school.

Admissions officers told Kaplan that the content included plagiarism, alcohol consumption in photos, and vulgar language. They also cited "illegal activities" and things that made them "wonder," which makes us wonder, but that's another post for another day.

"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's proliferated to include Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging and other platforms -- and teens today are using all of these channels," said Jeff Olson, Vice President of Data Science at Kaplan Test Prep. "Additionally, we're seeing a growing cultural ubiquity in social media use, plus a 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."

This is fast becoming the "your face will freeze that way" of the internet age, but it bears repeating: Don't put anything online that you wouldn't mail directly to college admissions officers, prospective bosses, or your grandmother.

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(Photo Credit: Saad Faruque/Flickr)

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