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Friday
Apr012011

Colleges Use Facebook to Recruit Students

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- According to a recent Kaplan survey of college admissions officers, 82 percent of American universities have set up Facebook pages to communicate with prospective students during the admissions process.

"College-aged kids use social networking a lot," said Jeff Olson, Kaplan's vice president of research. "A majority use it every day. Now colleges are recognizing what a powerful tool it can be."

Olson said that over the past few years, attitudes toward colleges using social media have changed. Initially, people saw universities engaging with prospective students over sites like Facebook as a negative interaction, he said.

"There was this 'Oh, no!' reaction at first," he said. "But as social networking becomes more popular, people are warming up to the idea."

A lot of the fear stemmed from the belief that colleges would use information found on an applicant's Facebook profiles against them, he said.

Kaplan's survey of college admissions officers suggests that about 10 percent of officers have checked an applicant's online profile. This figure has not changed since 2008, despite more colleges using social media to recruit students.

Olson remembers how one student posted comments on his Facebook, bragging about how he was "too good" for a certain university that accepted him. An admissions officer saw the comments and rescinded the school's invitation to enroll. But Olson admits that cases in which students harm themselves using social media are "isolated."

"In the end, your Facebook is far less important than your transcripts," he said.

This year, Boston University received nearly 42,000 freshman applications. With that many applications to review, checking the Facebook page of every potential student would be impossible, said Colin Riley, Boston University's spokesman.

"It would be too time-consuming," he said.

He said, however, that if there is a compelling reason to look into an applicant's online profile, admissions representatives may do so.

For example, if a student writes an essay about how they organized a charity event through Facebook, or maintained a school club's social media accounts, the admissions staff may look into the student's profile for support.

Olson predicts that as social media becomes more popular, the practice of colleges using Facebook and similar sites will become even more common.

Such technology can be a great way for students to get information, he said, but he does warn students to be careful when using it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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