The urge to opine is strong in our digital age, whether it’s commenting on how cute your co-worker’s newborn is on Instagram or engaging Aunt Edna in heated political debate on Facebook. But business school applicants should know that their candid social media divulgences are more and more likely to become a factor in the decision-making process at the schools they apply to — and that the outcome has an equal likelihood of being good or bad.
In other words, be wary of oversharing.
Kaplan Test Prep recently polled 160 business schools, including 18 of the U.S. News & World Report top 50, and found a huge jump in the number of B-school MBA program officers turning to social media to help them make admissions decisions. Overall, more than a third of admissions officers surveyed (35%) say they have visited applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them, a jump from less than a quarter (22%) when the educational and career services provider first asked the question in 2011. Notably, 33% of admissions folks say they check applicants’ social media footprint “often.”
So yes, schools are delving more into digital disclosures — but that’s not always a bad thing. According to Kaplan, social media both hurt and helped applicants in nearly equal proportion, with half (50%) of business schools saying they’ve found something that negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances and nearly as many (48%) saying they’ve found something that positively impacted an applicant’s chances.
RACIAL ATTITUDES, ‘DISTURBING’ PICTURES SINK APPLICATIONS
It’s natural to expect the worst when someone goes digging into our online history. Kaplan’s 2017 survey, conducted by phone between August and October 2017, found a big increase in admissions folks who found something bad that turned them off from a candidate — more than triple the 14% who reported this in 2011. Among the revelations:
• “I found one student who made it clear that he wanted to flip houses. I thought, ‘Why should we offer a slot to him when you don’t need an MBA to do that.’”
• “I learned about a student’s racial attitudes and didn’t want to bring that into the school.”
• “We have had applicants who had disturbing pictures on their Facebook account.”
But on the flip side, almost as many reported finding good stuff in candidates’ backgrounds, a question that was not asked in 2011. Here’s what helped applicants:
• “We saw lots of information regarding volunteer work that was not included in the application.”
• “We got a better understanding of the student. We got to learn more about their hobbies, and ambitions.”
• “We were able to see their writing samples and creative thinking.”
‘ALWAYS BE MINDFUL OF WHAT YOU SHARE’
Worried about admissions officers poking around in your mentions and posts? It’s probably going to happen more often, not less: Kaplan reports that among all admissions officers, 61% agree with the statement, “What students post on their social media pages is in the public sphere, so it’s ‘fair game’ for us to use to help make admissions decisions.”
“Successful business school applicants are the ones who are prepared,” says Brian Carlidge, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduates programs for Kaplan Test Prep. “They submit strong GMAT or GRE scores, high GPAs, compelling letters of recommendation, impressive essays, and wow at the interviews. In a sense, that makes it scripted and choreographed, though rigorous. Business school admissions may take to social media to look for the less-polished version of the applicant, not necessarily to find their weak spots, but just to see how they are in everyday life.
“What you post on social media is a wildcard in the MBA admissions process and not nearly as important as the traditional factors, but always be mindful of what you share. Your social media footprint can potentially give you an admissions boost, but In some cases it can and will be used against you.”
Kaplan put together a one-minute YouTube video to accompany its report.