Law schools check applicants’ Facebook, MySpace profiles

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Students might want to protect access to their Facebook profiles from more than just the occasional creeper.

Several law schools across the nation are using social networking sites as part of the admissions process, according to a survey by Kaplan Inc.

Kaplan reported that one in seven admissions officers, which is 15 percent, visited prospective students’ sites, and many found negative content that reflected poorly on the student.

“What law schools do is train people to be members of the legal profession,” said Daralyn Arata, K-State’s university pre-law adviser. “[Law schools] want the best fit for their school and their profession.”

Arata explained that the trend for checking applicants’ online profiles started two years ago. Admissions officers might see something in an application and check the profile to investigate further.

Students might have the exact same qualifications, but because only half of the applicants can be accepted, officers might choose those whose profile gives them the “well-rounded” look, Arata said.

However, Arata said area law schools do not tend to check these sites as much as others might. Social networking sites are more of a reference tool than anything.

More competitive schools like Harvard or Yale are more likely to use it to help thin out applicants, she said.

Business and medical schools also check social networking profiles.

Anyone on Facebook or MySpace likely has had a questionable photo, wall post, status or even activities and interests on their profile. Law schools are not likely to hold these against them, Arata said.

The schools are looking more for patterns of behavior. So if every picture on an applicants’ profile is with a beer in hand, it might not give the best impression.

Arata said law schools seek diversity and want people with active social lives, but it is inadvisable to put up photos or videos of illegal activity, like underage drinking.

Students should be careful to monitor what is on their page.

Arata said she thinks wall posts can be especially dangerous, so you should delete anything that is inappropriate. Students also should go back to content they haven’t looked at in years and purge any questionable material.

“What you do in high school shouldn’t reflect what you’re like in college,” said Andrew Haworth, junior in political science and psychology. “There are some things that should be part of the social networking site.”

 If students think they are safe from unwanted eyes viewing their profiles because of privacy settings, they are sadly mistaken.

Arata said students “never know where connections are.”

It is hard to contain everything electronically, and admissions officers might have friends or colleagues at the applicants’ schools, or they might be former students of their schools. This could help them gain access to applicants’ networks and perhaps their profiles.

Jessica Breuer, junior in advertising, said she thinks admissions officers using someone else to view profiles is unethical. However, if it is open to the public, she said she thinks it is OK for them to view them.

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