I remember several years ago when Facebook was fresh out of the coding gate, college seniors feared that their employers would look at a certain picture of them at the fraternity mixer holding a can of beer, and that would be the end of their resume.  In those days, Facebook (and some other social networks) was limited to college-aged persons, but now the fear has spread to high schoolers.

An article in the Chicago Tribune states that a recent study done by Kaplan claims that 10% of college admissions boards check the social profiles of their applicants.

Of those, the survey suggests the social profiles had a negative impact on the applicant's success at admission 38% of the time.  Assistant provost for enrollment Dan Saracino of the University of Notre Dame said he and his staff "don't go out of [their] way" to scrutinize students online, but sometimes they come across candidates portraying themselves in a less-than-flattering light.

"It's typically inappropriate photos-like holding up a can of beer at a party," Saracino said.

When I discussed this topic with several peers, many were surprised at how many high school students would post lewd photos, or ones that contained illegal activity.  "It's one thing for employers to see potential legal-aged employees holding a beer at a football tailgate, but it's another thing entirely to see potential students already breaking tons of rules and championing it online," stated my colleague, Naomi Collins.

Admissions faculty from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago were surprised by the survey's results.  They both believed that it was "an invasion of privacy" to snoop at web materials that "aren't intended for [them]".

During college, I remember several students constricting their privacy settings and requesting for others to remove pictures of them for fear of breaking ROTC student rules.  Most students applying for medical or graduate school were likely to do the same thing.  Many simply amped up their privacy settings so that only friends could view the majority of the online content, while others were afraid of the ways to get around the privacy settings.  Those students chose to outright remove most of their content.  In fact, several of my fellow students removed their profiles completely.

Should college admissions boards view and take into account the online social profiles of students?  While I don't believe that someone's online persona necessarily translate into their capability as a student, what's the harm in ‘cleaning it up' a month or so prior to the start of the admissions process?