Colleges have the right to view what is posted on public social media sites

Staff Editorial

Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook are all big names in the social networking world. With the impact of technology today and the level of competitiveness for universities, college admissions officers are looking at more than just student applications for acceptance, they are looking at student social media as well.

Just as employers now regularly peruse both candidates’ and existing employees’ social media activity, it is a safe bet that colleges do the same. One survey of college admissions conducted by Kaplan Test Prep found that 35 percent of admissions officers have visited more than one of an applicant’s social media page to learn more about them.

First Amendment rights do not stop at the school doors, nor do they stop once a student logs onto a social media account. Congress shall make no laws abridging the freedom of speech. Students are free to say or post whatever they wish to online, but they need to be held accountable for it. A public online account should come with the knowledge that any person can see what is being said.

Making a social media account private is one way to resolve this issue; colleges are unable to look at a profile that is private. Making it private is a good idea anyway; on most social media, a private account means your name won’t come up in search results and it limits your digital footprint.

Because colleges receive so many qualified applications, they’re typically looking at social media to see if it tips the scales in anyone’s favor, not to dig up dirt. One study from the University of Arizona showed that 39 percent of administrators viewed students’ “profiles” online specifically to “aid in the admission of a student.”

Admission chances should still overwhelmingly be decided by the traditional factors of high school GPA, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, personal essays and extracurricular activities. However, taking a peek at a student’s social media that is open to the public is neither unconstitutional nor immoral.

If the idea of admissions officers looking at your social media is unappealing or concerning, then maybe steps should be taken to “clean up” your online presence. Colleges can, and will look into student social media.

Everything posted online publicly is open for anyone to view, and it all stays online permanently. Maybe next time students will think twice before turning to social media and posting questionable acts.