Do Colleges Look At Digital Footprints?

Getting admission to college in the 21st century has slowly but surely evolved over the years. With the advancement in technology, higher learning institutions are, now more than ever, shifting focus from the conventional academics only or high-graded students for enrollment to a more dynamic and holistic criterion of selecting students for their programs.  Let us know Do Colleges Look At Digital Footprints?

What is a digital footprint?

A digital footprint can be defined as the trail you leave while surfing the internet. This includes all the posts you have ever shared on social networking sites, emails sent and received, search results on browsers, comments, shares, subscriptions, and likes.

By understanding why college admission boards are taking a step further in learning about a prospective student’s ability, talents, and hobbies with regard to their study area, colleges are hoping to provide maximum utilities for their learners in order to nurture future transformational leaders and innovators. They are also keen on ensuring that all learners co-exist peacefully with each other and with other publics while they pursue their programs in the institutions.

Why Colleges Are Embracing A Holistic Approach In Selecting Prospective Students

  • Academic merits still stand

We are now witnessing a shift in how colleges and higher learning admission departments are considering a potential fit for their programs. This is not to say that academic merit is no longer considered for applicants. With the changing landscape being experienced globally due to digitalization, and the job market also undergoing a significant paradigm shift, there is reason to believe that students are expected to be more than good-grade good-student kind of people. 

  • Your social media as a portfolio of your brand

While students seeking admission were required to have outstanding grades from their schools and that alone would guarantee them a higher chance of getting admission, today we are witnessing a whole new way of determining a prospective student with potential. Students can now elevate their applications by highlighting relevant activities they have done online including a link to their social media handles. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram have become a tool for personal branding. However, this is not the case for all students. Not all students choose to include their social media handles in their applications. Others prefer having their socials private. 

  • Encourage active members of the community through service 

Students need to demonstrate excellent character and be individuals who are conscious of the environment and people living in their neighborhoods. They are young adults who are able to offset their community’s status quo and dive right into innovation. On the flip side, the digital sphere has opened up doors to multiple political, social, and economic cyber-crimes that are greatly propagated by users online.

For this reason, a more counterintuitive approach to conducting background research on a student before enrollment is one exercise that can never be emphasized enough. 

It should be borne in mind that not all higher learning institutions or colleges have this policy in place. In fact, according to a Kaplay survey conducted in 2018, it was found that only 25% of college admission officers get to review applicants’ social media profiles; incredibly down from the 40% rate in 2015.

Is digital footprint audit a major deal-breaker for admission officers?

It is a relief to know that oftentimes, the admission board may not necessarily be looking to throw out your application on the basis of the harmless dark humor you posted 3 years ago. Most times your social media profile will be brought to question if you have doubtable reasons brought forth to the admissions desk that are controversial and are not in line with the institutions’ ethical standards.

On such accounts, the admissions board may go out of its way to do a background check on your social profile just to be convinced that your stay in the institution will be peaceful and adhered to the school’s regulations.

All in all most admission officers tend to overlook the significance of conducting a social media profile audit as applications received may be great and relying on the content posted on social media may oftentimes not depict a true picture of an applicant’s personality.

Usually, social media profiles tend to complement applicants’ chances of getting admission as they may help the admission panel find additional information that sets you apart from the crowd, or activities you enjoy doing that depicts an all-around individual.

What Admission Officers are after in a digital footprint.

It is evident that what you post/ interact with online speaks volumes about your personality and your belief system. Your social media account can greatly complement your application. It may be evidence of your outstanding leadership capabilities, your tool for social advocacy, or even bring out your strongest talents and hobbies that sets you apart from other applicants. 

Not everyone includes the link to their social networking sites on their resume, so the few who drop their LinkedIn profile link especially, usually have nothing to hide and are expecting to use that as an additional source of information for admission officers to consider.

When applying for college admission, we all want to put our best foot forward. This is even vital when you are applying to get admission to big renowned higher learning institutions that have a very low acceptance rate. Stories of students missing admission into these institutions are common due to a variety of reasons. However, in the recent past, we have witnessed students being denied a chance in college as a result of a controversial social media post.  


In conclusion, as we continue to embrace digital technologies at higher learning institutions, it is evident that what you do online can significantly make an impact on your community or the globe at large. With increasing online mass campaigns and activism by citizens of all countries, a more responsible online community is crucial for a country’s prosperity. Voices online influence policy-makers, the future of social media as part of an individual’s portfolio can greatly determine the admissions board’s decision on a prospective student with the greatest potential.  As the online community continues to evolve, so does its significance. 

Frequently Asked Questions?
  1. Is it a must to include your social media profiles in your college application?

No. not all institutions require an applicant to include their social media handles. This entirely depends on a college’s application requirement.

  1. Can college boards access my social media accounts without my consent?

No. Only students with links to their social media handles can allow the admission board to access their profiles without necessarily logging in as a user.