Thursday, April 30, 2009

Social Circles

I read yesterday’s Inside Higher Education article, To Friend or to Reject, by editor Scott Jaschik, about the growing use of social media in the admission process. While I agree with the notion that this is public domain information available for consumption and, perhaps, action from friends, relatives, even employers, there are other good reasons for institutions of higher education to be skeptical about dipping their toes into this media space.

Among institutions that use a holistic process for application review, one of the strongest messages in the last decade has been that students should just be themselves in their application. This means allowing the admission committee to glimpse behind the façade of the application to see the actual and interesting qualities of the student, as discussed in the Wall Street Journal article, How Not to Get Into College: Submit a Robotic Application. If a college is serious about this notion of being yourself, it appears incongruent to penalize students for doing just that in an online space.

Admission offices often employ newly minted graduates in their offices as admission counselors who themselves engaged in Facebook and other social media outlets during their college years. Institutions that engage in looking up prospective students on the internet need to consider that their admission counselors could, in turn, could be subject to the same kind of scrutiny from disappointed students or their parents. In other words, “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t cast stones.”

The focus of the debate over the role of social media in the admission process has tended to skew towards discoverable and potentially negative information about a student. What about information that could positively impact an admission or scholarship decision? Do institutions only look for one type of information? Will institution create policies of balancing both seemingly positive and negative information they uncover on social media sites?

I believe social media is part of the new frontier for college admission and has a role to play in a 21st century reworking of a decades old admission system. It is also a complex issue that deserves our thoughtful and careful consideration.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't received anything yet. I'm applying as a international student currently studying in Missouri. Looking forward eagerly.