Evaluating applicants

New study confirms that law school administrators check social networking sites of potential students    


By Michelle Weyenberg

A new survey compiled by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions sheds new light on how admissions officers are taking notice of what’s posted on social networking sites of potential students.

This past summer, Kaplan surveyed admissions officers at 152 schools from the nation’s 200 ABA-approved law schools about a variety of important admissions-related topics. Given the rise of social media such as Facebook and MySpace, Kaplan administrators wanted to get a sense of whether material posted on such websites factored into the admissions decision-making process.

They asked the question: “Have you personally visited a student’s social networking website to help you evaluate
an applicant?”

Glen Stohr, director of preLaw programs at Kaplan, said 15 percent of all surveyed law school admissions officers revealed that they had visited an applicants’ social networking website. That’s more than business schools (9 per cent), colleges (10 per cent) and medical schools (14 per cent).

Stohr said he believes there are two reasons law school officers visit these sites more than any other group.

“The first reason is medical schools and business schools routinely have a face-to-face interview process,” he said. “Law schools are so aware that character and fitness is going to correlate with everything. I think that puts a double edge on it with law school admissions officers because they don’t have the opportunity for the face-to-face meeting.”

Stohr said there should be no cause for concern by students.

“It’s interesting,” he said. “From a student’s perspective it feels like a ‘gotcha,’ but I don’t think the admissions officers are looking at it that way.”

But of those 15 percent, more than half (52 per cent) said that what they did see impacted the applicant negatively.

The survey didn’t allow the admissions officers to elaborate further than that, though Stohr said that’s probably because of information that the applicants failed to disclose.

“It’s less likely to be that embarrassing picture from college that is the application killer,” he said. “The things that would really strike a note for an admissions officer is not disclosing. If you have been on academic probation, among other things, please disclose this.”

It’s the first year Kaplan has asked this question. But it’s certainly not the first time it’s been heard about.
There have been numerous stories published about businesses that check Facebook and MySpace profiles of potential employees.

“I would always tell applicants that there are certain things [admissions offices] are going to look at,” Stohr said. “You will be looked at, especially when you begin.”

The question about the legal implications of employers and school officials using these social networking sites as possible ‘deal-breakers’ continues.

Stohr said this is the generation where those rules are going to get made. Only 17 percent of law school admissions departments are currently working on hammering out an official policy regarding the use of social networking sites.