Facebook aficionados beware: A nation-wide investigation has confirmed that college admission officers – at both the undergraduate and graduate level – do indeed reference social networking sites when considering applicants.

The study, conducted by Kaplan, Inc., surveyed 320 admissions officers from top colleges across the country and found one in 10 utilized social networking sights to aid in the decision-making process. The findings also revealed that 9 percent of admissions officers at business schools, 15 percent at law schools and 14 percent at medical schools considered electronic footprints left by students.

Jeff Olson, executive director of research at Kaplan, said the mass popularity of social sites such as Facebook.com and Myspace.com has skewed the line between public and private information.

“Social networking users rank almost as high as the telephone users, with 86 percent of students connected online,” Olson said. “That is a breathtaking number, so it is not surprising there are not clear boundaries.”

Despite being excluded from the study, Chuck Champlin, Manager of Communications in the Admissions Department, said UCSB has no policy either condemning or condoning the cross-referencing of social networks.

“There is no policy one way or another and no intention or plans to [check profiles],” Champlin said. “It is not ruled out by policy but this is not something the director of admissions is recommending we use.”

Olson said it is common for offices to have no concrete policy regarding electronic background checks.

“Only about 10 percent of schools have a policy or have an intent to have a policy,” Olson said. “Some schools reserve checks for applicants they have concerns about or are considering for honors or scholarships.”

According to the Kaplan study, the content admissions officers viewed on students’ social networking pages negatively impacted their decision 38 percent of the time.

Timothy Beathy, a fourth-year physics major, said he felt his personal life should have no bearing on his academic aspirations.

“My social life has nothing to do with my school life,” Beathy said. “What I do on the weekends should have nothing to do with me applying for graduate school – I’m not running for public office.”

Alejandro Marquez, a third-year Spanish major, also said evaluating students in terms of their social networking profiles is misrepresentative of their character.

“While it is perfectly legal, I would say it is an invasion of privacy,” Marquez said. “It’s not judging people on the correct criteria.”

Olson, the executive director of research at Kaplan, said with continuous advancements in the computer age, information previously considered private will increasingly be considered fair game.

“It is not realistic to assume, as technology becomes more integral, that as a matter of policy someone will ignore something as simple as a Google search,” Olson said. “Anything you post online may fall under the eye of a school, an employer, family, and even your potential spouse or children.”