Why student's private lives are becoming public admissions criteria
Last fall, Danny Scheer, a 2006 Blair graduate, posted photos of himself "looking really stoned" on his MySpace profile as a joke. Though the Communication and Arts Program senior seminar teacher John Goldman told Scheer to take down the post so he would not run the risk of colleges seeing it, Scheer thought the whole incident was an empty threat. But Goldman's concerns may not be unwarranted.
Every day, millions of students like Scheer log on to a profile web sites like MySpace or Facebook, unaware that many colleges and employers have made these sites into part of the application process. Earlier this year, colleges like George Mason University began accessing the sites for security reasons, using them to bust under-age drinking parties. Now, colleges and employers have gone too far though, accessing private profiles for personal data about potential candidates. Though legal, the practice of using social profiles in the application process is ethically wrong and logically useless.
According to a 2005 study by ExecuNet, a job search agency, 75 percent of employers use web research during the selection process. But many applicants are completely unaware of this practice. According to New York Magazine's " MySpace Invaders," a 2006 article about employers on using profile web sites, 22-year-old Leslie Miller was teased by her boss on her first day of work about her practicing interpretive dance. When Miller asked how he knew about her dancing, the boss said he simply looked her up on Friendster, a social networking web site. The private pursuits of people like Miller are not information employers should even know about, much less use to judge.
Evaluating applicants based on private social profiles serves no practical purpose either, as it can even hinder colleges from finding the best applicants. A joking picture of an applicant wrapped in plastic bags may not cast him or her in the best light, but at the same time, there is no way to gauge a person's intelligence or work ethic from a personal profile picture. Those turned away based on personal eccentricities may actually be the most qualified individuals.
The only suggestion for students to protect self-profiles against prying eyes though, is to give them the "grandma" test, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Apparently, if you would not want your grandmother to be viewing a picture or post, it should not be on the site. But these sites were never intended for a grandmother's viewing pleasure – they are made for networking with other friends.
An online profile may help decide on applicants who request it to be used, but will not help if colleges or employers were never meant to view it. Students use online profiles to vent problems and frustrations or to meet new people. Personal issues like these have no relation to college applications, but destroy the atmosphere of a social networking site. By judging applicants using their social profiles, colleges are defeating the purpose of sites like MySpace and Facebook: to share interests and find friends.
If colleges and employers are going to continue using social profiles as a basis for judgment, then they need to realize that they are hurting both themselves the applicants. Unless the students request for them to be viewed, colleges and employers need to leave our personal lives out.
Hareesh Ganesan. More »