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Articles / Applying to College / Facing The Facebook Music

Facing The Facebook Music

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | June 6, 2017

Attention: high schoolers. In case you missed it, pay attention to this news article that came out this week:

Harvard Rescinds Acceptances for At Least Ten Students for Obscene Memes

First of all, what is a "meme," you might ask? Here you go:

... an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media).

How does that relate to having your acceptance to Harvard rescinded? Read on:

Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students traded sexually explicit memes and messages that sometimes targeted minority groups in a private Facebook group chat.

A handful of admitted students formed the messaging group—titled, at one point, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens"—on Facebook in late December, according to two incoming freshmen.

In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time."

After discovering the existence and contents of the chat, Harvard administrators revoked admissions offers to at least ten participants in mid-April, according to several members of the group. University officials have previously said that Harvard's decision to rescind a student's offer is final. ...

There may be more shoes to drop, as Harvard admissions digs deeper into this situation. Imagine having your college acceptance revoked for something you did in the past, perhaps something (attitudes, behaviors, etc.) which you no longer embrace or display. That's a grim prospect, and in the case of those referred to in the above article, a very stark reality.

The perils of social media are ominous and almost always ignored by participants as they go about their casual approach to their Internet activity. The simple fact is: Nothing you post on the Internet ever disappears. Your behavioral history remains on display forever, for whomever digs deep enough to find your postings.

So, those of you who are in the midst of formulating your college admissions plans should be thinking strategically -- and defensively -- about your social media presence. It's a fact that college admissions officers are fully capable of tracking you down on social media sites. Think about that and ask yourself, "What would they think about me if they got a good sampling of my social media profile?"

To help you get a grasp of some dos and don'ts to guide your online expressionism, here's a good review that warns: Social Media Today Affects College Admissions Tomorrow:

... What you do on social media today affects you immediately but it will also affect you when you start applying to college. (Yes, many admissions reps review your social media presence!) Here are few things to consider as you post tweet share and blog.

NEGATIVE: Posting photos of you dressed inappropriately or doing anything illegal for example won't fly with anyone (e.g. your parents school officials athletic coach) today or when you're applying to colleges.

POSITIVE: “Liking" a college's Facebook page following it on Twitter and asking questions or commenting on its social media sites help to demonstrate your interest.

NEGATIVE: Poor grammar probably won't hurt you too much today but watch your language (both profanity and proofing!) before and after you start applying to colleges.

POSITIVE: Share some photos of your trip abroad! Being cultured and worldly tells a lot about your curious and adventurous side.

NEGATIVE: Be careful what online groups you join and what pages you like. Joining a Japanese anime group is fine. Liking a Japanese beer page is not.

POSITIVE: Writing about possible majors and some colleges you're considering shows you're serious about learning.

NEGATIVE: Pinning inappropriate jokes e-cards or photos on Pinterest can come back to haunt you. And remember many sites are linked so what you think you're pinning to your “Things I Find Funny" board on Pinterest may be showing up on your Facebook page (even if you thought you deleted it).

POSITIVE: Share some Instagram photos of you volunteering at the animal shelter or running in the 5K cancer fundraiser.

NEGATIVE: Be careful what you write on other people's boards and sites. Things you think are private are often public … or become public later.

POSITIVE: Help admissions reps get to know you by posting photos with fun captions about your “free time." Are you athletic? You could post a photo of you rock climbing. Musical? Tweet a photo of you meeting your musical idol. Artsy? Mention that you're at the museum studying your favorite abstract artists.

As a general rule of thumb ask yourself if you'd be OK with your grandmother reviewing everything in your online presence. If your answer is “yes" you're fine. If your answer is “no" it may be time for a little spring cleaning!

To reinforce that statement about admissions personnel reviewing social media accounts, the Crimson article goes on to note:

... This incident marks the second time in two years that Harvard has dealt with a situation where incoming freshmen exchanged offensive messages online. Last spring, some admitted members of the Class of 2020 traded jokes about race and mocked feminists in an unofficial class GroupMe chat, prompting Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67 to issue a joint statement condemning the students' actions. ...

Thus, you can see that the monitoring is ongoing. I write about this not to repress your freedom of speech or expression but, rather, to once again remind you that a careless moment or two on the worldwide stage of the Internet can come back to haunt you in very unpleasant ways.

Bottom line: If you've been careless about your social media presence, stop that behavior now! If you'll pardon the expression, do an aboutFacebook fast! You'll be glad you did.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.


Admit This

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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