CollegeThese days it seems like social media spills over into almost every aspect of our lives. We use it to keep in touch with all of our friends, brands use it to approach potential customers, and many companies use it for recruitment and for screening employees. In recent years, social media has become an important part of college admissions as well, with colleges and universities using sites like Facebook to target prospective students, open communication channels and even help in the admissions decision process.

In a recent article published by Politics Daily, Elizabeth Schiffman explores the expanding role of social media in college admissions, focusing on the social media efforts at Tufts University. Tufts has broken new ground when it comes to social media and college applications, giving students the option to submit an optional one-minute YouTube video along with their application and reaching out to students via Facebook, student bloggers and open forums. The idea is to reach out to high school students through the social media channels they are already using and excited about, thus getting them excited about the school.

However, a lot of students worry about the implications of colleges and universities getting involved in social media. Is it ethical for admissions committees to look at students’ social media profiles when deciding whether or not to accept them? According to a Kaplan Survey from the fall of 2008, one in ten college admissions officers visited applicants social networking profiles when deciding whether or not to accept them and odds are that this number has increased in the last year and a half. While a quarter of these admissions officers said that viewing students’ profiles had a positive effect on their evaluation, 38 percent said that looking at profiles generally had a negative impact on the decision process. For instance, a student who would have gotten in to a school otherwise may be rejected for posting negative status updates about the school on Facebook.

After the admission process is completed, many schools continue to reach out to students through social media. Schools may introduce prospectives to current students and alumni through Facebook groups and other social media channels and many schools are beginning to build their own social networks. For instance, Rutgers invites students to join their private social networking platform, Go Rutgers.

Do you think about the role social media is playing in college admissions these days is helpful or harmful? Do you think it aids the learning process or just gives students an additional distraction?