Although Facebook was invented at Harvard, applicants to the University have long worried that it could keep them out.
In response to this fear, some students have hired businesses like Social Assurity to evaluate their social media presences for $125. Other students, however, have opted for the more expensive profile curation service, which can cost as much as $1,750.
Despite these extravagant expenditures, however, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 recently told The Crimson that admissions officers rarely consider applicants’ social media profiles. Further, when admissions officers look at these profiles, it is almost exclusively to applicants’ advantage, though Fitzsimmons declined to elaborate on the circumstances in which such an advantage would occur.
In light of the recently stated position of the Admissions Office, we hope that prospective applicants do not fall into the trap of unnecessary expenditures on services such as social media curation, which no 18 year-old should reasonably need. The hiring of social media consultants in the college admission process is a sure sign that it has become more competitive and life-consuming than ever, with applicants grasping for any potential edge.
Students applying to Harvard should not feel the need to make every part of their lives about admission to the college of their choice. The admission process is already disconcertingly stressful, and the fabrication of further needs such as social media curation will only heighten applicants’ anxiety. Students should continue to focus on presenting themselves to colleges as honestly as possible in their entire applications, rather than diverting their attention to their social media profiles.
Nevertheless, Fitzsimmons’ statement on the role of social media does not mean applicants should not exercise prudence in what they post online. The fact that admission officers do not typically look at social media profiles should reduce applicants’ stress levels, but not the judgement they use online. Fitzsimmons phrased his statement carefully in order to reserve admission officers’ right to peruse social media profiles, and though he emphasized cases in which social media might help applicants, his caution is noteworthy.
Ultimately, this articulation of policy is a credit Harvard's efforts to make admissions more transparent. In recent years, Fitzsimmons and the Admission Office have made important strides toward making admission to Harvard more accessible to people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Policy clarifications such as this one are important steps toward demystifying the admission process and leveling the playing field for all applicants.
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