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Do colleges look at Facebook?

How college admission offices use social networking sites‚ and why that matters for your MySpace, Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites.

Imagine taking the time to fill out your college app, write a stellar essay, then ending up being rejected from your top college choice or a scholarship opportunity because an admissions rep checked out your Facebook page and didn’t like what was there.

It happens.

Never before has it been so simple for admissions officers to get extra information about students. Simply looking at someone’s Facebook page can be an excellent indicator as to whether or not they really fit the personality picture that their application painted.

A 2009 Survey performed by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) found that 88 percent of admissions officers said that social networking sites (such as Facebook or MySpace) were either somewhat important or very important to their current and future recruitment efforts.

Of course, there are some ways to avoid the negative impacts of social networking. Here are some:

1. Don’t use them. The simplest way to avoid this problem is to avoid social networking sites altogether.

2. Turn all privacy settings on. With applications such as Facebook, you can control who is able to view your profile. While applying to colleges, it may be worth turning all the privacy settings on.

3. Ask your friends and family for their opinion on your profile. Have them look at your profiles to ensure they won’t have a negative impact on your reputation. They will often give you the most objective opinion as to whether that latest party photo is too risky.

4. Always err on the side of caution. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you think your social networking activities are too risky, then take the profile down.

Always consider the impact that social networking can have on your applications. Taking the time to do so now will ensure you aren’t left wondering why your application was denied.

Ross Blankenship is the president and director of TopTestPrep.com. He is an admissions expert who has helped students get into top prep schools, colleges and graduate schools through Top Test Prep’s private tutoring and admissions consulting programs.