Big Brother is not the only one watching online activities, students are warned. Future employers and college admission officers might be looking into one’s social media profiles and making admission decisions based on what they see.

College student social media Study says college admission officers increasingly review social media updates of applicants

The younger generation is more likely to be active on social media, with the prevalence of networks and apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. Think twice before posting a potentially damaging photo or status update, advises a new study. College officials and potential employers are watching, after all.

There is a rising trend among schools in screening applicants’ social media updates. New research from Kaplan Test Prep indicating a 5 percent growth this year. In a recently-published study, 29 percent of admission officers do a Google search on applicants, while 31 percent do a review of students’ Facebook profiles.

While not all schools are looking into online profiles as a part of their decision-making process, “there’s definitely greater acknowledgment and acceptance of this practice now,” says Seppy Basili, vice president at Kaplan Test Prep, comparing figures from 2013 compared with those five years ago.

On the flip-side, however, students are becoming more savvy with being discreet in their online activities. In a separate survey, 75 percent of students queried say they would not be too concerned about admission officials looking into their online activities. “Many students are becoming more cautious about what they post, and also savvier about strengthening privacy settings and circumventing search,” writes Christine Brown, executive director of the institute’s college admissions program. According to the survey, students would usually strengthen their privacy settings, untag themselves from potentially incriminating photos, and sometimes even delete their profiles altogether.

This follows the same trend in the workplace, with human resource managers often looking into the social media activities of potential hires. Indiscretions would often result in negative feedback, and even current employees are subject to scrutiny when they publicly post inappropriate material. However, the practice of employers requiring employees to turn over their social media account passwords to review their private activities has been subject to scrutiny, and is now even rendered illegal in most states.

Social media, after all, is a tool and a medium, and it can only be as good or as bad as how the user utilizes the resources. For a student aspiring to get into a good college or university, social networks can even be put to positive use. “Sometimes that impact is beneficial, if online searches turn up postings of sports scores, awards, public performances or news of something interesting they’ve undertaken,” Basili says. “But digital footprints aren’t always clean, so students should maintain a healthy dose of caution, and definitely think before posting.”

Source: Kaplan Test Prep, NY Times / Image credit: Shutterstock