It's crunch time for college and graduate school admissions, and while thousands are twisting and turning over their essays, they might want to spend just as much time cleaning up their digital profiles.
Kaplan Test Prep surveyed admissions officers at the top law schools, business schools and colleges across the U.S. this summer, and found those looking at future lawyers to be the most active in pre-screening applicants using their online footprints. The Kaplan data showed 41 percent of law school admissions officers (from 128 of the nation’s 200 American Bar Association-accredited law schools) said they have Googled an applicant to learn more about them, while 37 percent have checked out an applicant on Facebook or other social networking site.
And they're not just looking for fun. Nearly a third of law school admissions officers who researched an applicant online — 32 percent — said they discovered "something that negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances."
Lawyers, it turns out, hold themselves to a higher bar than you'd think. Jeff Thomas, Kaplan's director of pre-law programs said:
Despite jokes and negative stereotyping of lawyers, the reality is that the legal community takes ethics among its members very seriously. You not only have to be accepted to a state bar to practice law, but once you are admitted, unethical behavior can lead to your disbarment, stripping you of your ability to practice. Not many other professions have that kind of enforceable code of conduct, so it’s natural that law schools screen more stringently and more often.
You hear that? So future lawyers: Smarten up and untag yourselves from all those frat party and Mardi Gras pics! Better yet, delete them, if you can.
Kaplan's Russell Schaffer said the "offenses" they found included: "essay plagiarism, vulgarities in blogs, alcohol consumption in photos and illegal activities."
On the flip side, 77 percent of potential law school students (869 Kaplan Test Prep students who took the October LSAT) "objected to having their online personae included as part of the admissions process." That same percentage, Schaffer said, "also said that as future lawyers they should be held to a higher ethical standard than other professionals."
Only 15 percent of those would-be lawyers admitted there is something in their personal digital footprint that might show up as a negative on their application.
Those of you going to college and business school, you have a little wiggle room. Only 12 percent of college admission officers and 14 percent of business school admissions officers found something online that could damage an applicant’s admissions chances.
But, business school admissions officers do take to the Internet to find out more about applicants: 27 percent used Google. Less than a quarter (22 percent) of them have visited an applicant’s Facebook page.
In September, Kaplan released the results of another survey of college admissions officers in which nearly a quarter (24 percent) of them said they went to an applicant’s Facebook or other social networking page, and 20 percent Googled them.
When Kaplan first began tracking the issue in 2008, only 10 percent of schools reported checking applicants’ social networking pages.
And if you think that your school isn't going to be so strict in its admissions, you'd be gambling, as 38 of the top 50 colleges (as designated by U.S. News & World Report) participated in the survey, as did 16 of the top 25 business schools (as designated by U.S. News & World Report), says Schaffer.
Besides the 128 law schools, 359 colleges and 265 business schools also responded to the survey.
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