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Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - September 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company


Another Worry for College Applicants?
Houston County Courier - September 2008
Compiled by Sharron Randall
Staff Writer
Editorial@houstoncountycourier.com

Crockett City Councilman James Hall brought an article that appeared in the Life Style section of the Wall Street Journal, dated Thursday, Sept. 18 to the newspaper office on Monday, Sept. 22 that he believes to be of interest to high school seniors, parents and teachers who are already stressed about grades, test scores, and being able to 'walk' on graduation day.

Upon Googling the question "Will their Facebook or MySpace pages count against them in college admissions?" this writer found over 320,000 articles on this particular subject.

It seems that many national newspapers are reporting just how much personal information listed on Facebook or MySpace by prospective applicants is being used by college admissions offices.

A survey of 500 top colleges found that 10 percent of admissions officers acknowledged looking at social-networking sites to evaluate applicants.  Of those colleges making use of the on-line information, 38 percent said that what they saw "negatively affected" their views of the applicant.

Only a quarter of the schools checking the sites said their views were improved, according to the survey by education company Kaplan, a unit of Washington Post Co.

According to a report by The Stanford Daily News, popular online networks are now being used by 85 percent of students at participating colleges. 

Not only do some college admissions officers use Facebook as another means to evaluate high school applicants, but many companies also use the network to review future employees.

Moreover, college officials have started using Facebook as a means to catch illegal behavior on campus.

Just what are a student's legal rights when an educational institution chooses to use material from the site?  According to James Devine, associate dean of the School of Law at Missouri University, "An individual's right to privacy belongs to the individual, but if the individual waives a portion for some reason, such as joining Facebook, then they've waived it."

Some admissions officers said they had rejected students because of negative material, inappropriate photos and language, conduct code violations, and other reported damaging, illegal or offensive personal information or acts.

So students beware.  It may be time to seriously consider how much personal information to reveal on these popular online networks.  The sites can legally sell information about its users to marketers.  Even though students can control access to their profiles, Facebook's privacy policy specifies that these limits do not apply to lawful requests, which include subpoenas and court orders.

According to the Wall Street Journal, high school guidance counselors advise applicants, even if they restrict public access on their sites, to refrain from including anything that could hurt them in college admissions.  They especially caution against foul or offensive language, nudity, or photos of drinking and drug use.

"Students need to be accountable for their actions," said Scott Anderson, director of college guidance at a private school near Memphis, Tenn.  When writing on Facebook or MySpace, he said, "they should be thinking is this something you want your grandmother to see?"

 

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