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Admissions in the Age of Social Media

Be careful what you post, tweet, chat, or like—a single comment can get you banned from college for good.

Pop quiz!  How many offers of admission has Harvard rescinded in a single year?

A.  0

B.  5

C.  8

D.  10

If you guessed zero, five, or even eight… you’re wrong.  Harvard has revoked as many as ten offers in a recent admissions season. 

And what was the reason Harvard admitted these 10 students only to turn around and say just kidding—nope, no bragging at future cocktail parties for you!

A.  I don’t know, but I bet that lady from Full House was involved.

B.  They lied about their SATs.

C.  They were found to be narcs from Yale.

D.  Social Media posts

If you guessed (D) this time, you’re right.  The students had their offers of admission yanked over social media posts. 

Now, don’t get us wrong.  We at The Playbook love social media.  That inspirational video of “Unstoppable” Tracy Schmitt talking about overcoming barriers?  UHMAZING.  That hilariously adorable Tik-Tok video of a cat dancing to “Mr. Sandman”?  Stop, stop.  Our sides still hurt.  But we don’t like social media for teenagers and here’s why: 

Students who do everything they can to get into the best possible college can see all of their hard work erased by a single ill-conceived post.

The Cautionary Tale of One Parkland Student

One student who survived the mass shooting at Parkland High School in 2018 went on to be admitted to Harvard the next year.  What should have been a cause for celebration turned into a disaster when some old offensive comments the student had made on an online platform were revealed to the Harvard Admissions Office.  Harvard gave the student a chance to explain his conduct but ultimately decided to revoke his admission.  As a Harvard spokesman explained in 2019, the university may rescind an offer of admission if a student “engages or has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, maturity or moral character.”

While this case made national news, this student’s situation is not unique.  In fact, in one recent admissions cycle, Harvard rescinded admissions offers for 10 students, all for offensive online posts.

Don’t Delete Facebook Just Yet

Before you toss your teenager’s phone into the garbage disposal, remember that while these situations do occur, they’re the exceptions, not the rule.  Over 65,000 students applied to the University of Michigan in 2020, and we highly doubt that anyone in Ann Arbor took the time to read all of their Twitter replies.  That said, nobody wants to be the next cautionary tale about a student whose academic career is upended by a thoughtless or misunderstood comment.  Therefore, to keep yourself safe, here are a few useful guidelines for high school students who’d like to stay on social media without jeopardizing their chances of getting into college.  (Those of us who fondly remember Life Before Cell Phones can probably learn a thing or two as well.)

Do a Privacy Checkup

You might want to share every moment of your life with the world, but trust us, the world is only so interested in what you had for breakfast.  Check the privacy settings for all of your social media accounts and make sure you’re only sharing information and posts with people you know in the real world.

The Internet Is Forever

The internet was originally designed by the Department of Defense to create a decentralized information infrastructure capable of surviving a nuclear war.  What that means in practical terms is that a 30-second YouTube video of a puppy eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich will almost certainly outlive you, your children, and your children’s children.  (We address this depressing fact in our forthcoming article on Existential Dread.)

Remember, what you think is clever now might be embarrassing in the future.  Ben in our finance department learned that the hard way when he got a “Beverly Hills 90210 Rocks” tattoo in 1996.  Don’t be like Ben.  Please.

There’s No Such Thing as a Private Message

That student who had his offer of admission rescinded by Harvard—he didn’t post his comments on Facebook or Twitter.  He made his comments in texts, on Skype, and on shared Google documents.

None of these forums were public per se, but none of them were private either.  Once a message is sent, it can be copied, saved, or forwarded by all sorts of people.  Assume that everything you do on your phone, computer, tablet, or snazzy new smart watch can be read, seen, and heard by everyone.  Because it probably is.

Context Matters, and Everything is Taken Out of Context on the Internet

Teenagers love inside jokes.  They sometimes make their friends laugh with ironic and shocking comments, secure in the knowledge that nobody is taking what they say at face value.

Unfortunately, the Internet has a habit of amplifying inside jokes, stripping them of context, and judging people on the least charitable reading of their words.

A good rule of thumb is to not put anything down in writing that you wouldn’t be comfortable telling your grandmother.  And if your grandmother happens to be potty-mouthed, then at least make sure not to make comments you wouldn’t want to see as part of your college application.

Good Digital Hygiene Doesn’t End at Graduation 

The same good habits that will protect students from running afoul of college admissions officers will serve them well in the future as they enter the job market.  Technology companies are already using AI and data mining to scour social media to assess peoples’ “social credit” in the same way the financial institutions assess the creditworthiness of customers.

Just as few of us predicted the current social media landscape, we don’t know what the future of information will be.  The only thing we can be sure of is that we’re better off being safe than sorry.

Now, please share this post on Facebook.

Aug 1 – Sep 26 Schedule

Class 1: Monday, August 1, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 2: Monday, August 8, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 3: Monday, August 15, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 4: Monday, August 22, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 5: Monday, August 29, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 6: Monday, September 12, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 7: Monday, September 19, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 8: Monday, September 26, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

July 5 - Aug 23 Schedule

Class 1: Tuesday, July 5, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 2: Tuesday, July 12, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 3: Tuesday, July 19, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 4: Tuesday, July 26, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 5: Tuesday, August 2, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 6: Tuesday, August 9, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 7: Tuesday, August 16, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 8: Tuesday, August 23, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

DEC 18 - MAR 8 Schedule

Exam 1: Saturday, December 18, 2021, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 1: Tuesday, January 4, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 2: Tuesday, January 11, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Exam 2: Saturday, January 15, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 3: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 4: Tuesday, February 1, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Exam 3: Saturday, February 5, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 5: Tuesday, February 8, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 6: Tuesday, February 15, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Exam 4: Saturday, February 26, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 7: Tuesday, March 1, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 8: Tuesday, March 8, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Oct 27 – Nov 20 Schedule

Class 1: Wednesday, October 27, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 2: Saturday, October 30, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

Class 3: Wednesday, November 3, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 4: Saturday, November 6, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

Class 5: Wednesday, November 10, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 6: Saturday, November 13, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

Class 7: Wednesday, November 17, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 8: Saturday, November 20, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

100 THINGS MOST TEENAGERS WOULD RATHER DO THAN PREP FOR THE SAT OR ACT

1. Visit the orthodontist. 2. Watch PBS. 3. Go an entire week without rolling their eyes at their parents. 4. Watch C-SPAN. 5. Retake their AP Chem final. 6. Intern at a local CPA’s office. 7. Turn off their cell phone. 8. Mop the kitchen. 9. Clean their bathroom. 10. Renounce social media. 11. Write a 10-page history paper. 12. Get a bunch of allergy shots. 13. Wait in line at the post office. 14. Watch the Weather Channel. 15. Be abducted by aliens. 16. Attend a clarinet recital. 17. Tour a Soviet-era nuclear plant. 18. Eat a healthy and nutritious dinner. 19. Do calisthenics. 20. Bake snickerdoodle cookies for that guy who’s always loitering by his van. 21. Watch a black-and-white foreign film without subtitles. 22. Clean out the rain gutters. 23. Pretend they’re 42 and recently divorced. 24. Listen to NPR’s Weekend Edition. 25. Read a newspaper. 26. Visit the DMV. 27. Eat crispy fried tarantulas (considered a delicacy in Cambodia). 28. Serve as a “breath odor evaluator” for a toothpaste company. (Yes, this job actually exists.) 29. Go on a double date with their parents. 30. Undergo dental surgery. 31. Babysit their annoying stepbrother. 32. Empty Mr. Whisker’s litter box. 33. Take out the trash. 34. Clean the rain gutters. 35. Tell their parents they’d like to sit down to discuss the Birds n’ the Bees. 36. Stare at a blank television screen for several hours. 37. Be fitted for orthodontic headgear. 38. Organize their closet. 39. Vacuum their entire house. 40. Eat that substance their school cafeteria claims is Sloppy Joe. 41. Kiss Tucker Carlson. 42. Make origami turtles for the residents of a local nursing home. 43. Do a few hundred burpees. 44. Try Uncle Morris’s beef stew. 45. Watch Hillbilly Handfishin’ on Animal Planet. 46. Eat “bird’s nest” soup, which sounds kind of scrumptious unless you know the broth is made from bird SALIVA. 47. Set up an Facebook account for Grandma. 48. Start a backyard garden. 49. Dust home furnishings. 50. Do an exercise known as the “Bulgarian Split Squat.” 51. Help Dad trim his back hair. 52. Hunt for spare change between the sofa cushions. 53. Hunt for leftover Cheez-Its between the sofa cushions. 54. Mow the lawn. 55. Learn how to knit. 56. Research Wikipedia’s entry on the history of Q- tips. 57. Count how many times they can blink in one hour. 58. Compose a haiku. 59. Do one of the American Dental Association’s oral disease-themed jigsaw puzzles. 60. Watch televised bowling. 61. Give Grandpa a foot massage. 62. Give Grandma a foot massage. 63. Play tea party with their six-year-old stepsister. 64. Read The Red Badge of Courage. 65. Browse Burlington Coat Factory’s fall collection. 66. Floss. 67. Listen to The Scarlett Letter on audiobook. 68. Watch televised bowling. 69. Lie really, really still and pretend they’re deceased. 70. Join their twelve-year-old sister and all of her friends for a dance party!!! 71. Wash their parents’ minivan. 72. Journal about their feelings. 72. Give themselves a haircut. 73. Make homemade kombucha. 74. Learn to crochet. 75. Get a head start on their LinkedIn profile. 76. Watch a black- and-white movie marathon. 77. Visit the library. 78. Run a relay race. 79. Eat slimy san-nakji, which is considered a delicacy in Korea. 80. Eat khash, a traditional dish in Southeastern Europe that is so disgusting you’re just going to have to Google it to find out what it’s made of. 81. Eat the Swedish delicacy blodpättar, which kind of sounds like what it is. 81. Eat bat soup, a traditional dish in Micronesia. 82. Eat harkarl, rotten shark meat that is considered a delicacy in Iceland. 83. Eat the Scottish dish known as haggis. 84. Eat escamol, a Mexican dish that kind of looks like it’s made of rice but definitely isn’t. 85. Eat “Rocky Mountain Oysters,” which, despite the name, may not be from the Rocky Mountains and definitely are not oysters. 86. Wrestle an alligator. 87. Be a “professional apologizer,” a person whose actual full-time job is to apologize on behalf of other people. 88. Be an ostrich babysitter, which is apparently something people do in South Africa. 89. Ponder what life would have been like if they had been born in Kazakhstan. 90. Take a transatlantic flight on Biman Bangladesh Airlines, widely considered the worst airline in the entire world. 91. Eat fugu, a potentially lethal blowfish. 92. Do a form of running exercise known as “laps of misery.” 93. Walk the neighbor’s dog. 94. Clean their room. 95. Frolic naked through the mall. 96. Do a handstand on two fingers. 97. Do one-armed chin-ups. 98. Do a form of exercise known as a “flying human flag abdominal crunch.” 99. Watch the 2011 movie Tree of Life. (Trust us, it’s booooring.) 100. Use sock puppets to practice their future networking skills.