Students who publicize their recreational drug use habits or bedroom romps on social net- works should be wary of the potential impact on their edu- cational prospects.

A survey of 386 universi- ties nationwide conducted by Kaplan Test Prep last year found that 82 percent of college admis- sions officers investigate pro- spective students through social networking sites. According to the survey, the admissions offi- cers used Facebook most com- monly to check on students’ backgrounds and exploits. However, 56 percent of partici- pants reported that their schools also use Twitter and YouTube in a similar fashion.

Although counselors’ find- ings might not directly affect admissions decisions, Carina Wong, Kaplan executive direc- tor of communications, said it could have a negative influence regardless.

“We found that the admis- sions officers resorted to view- ing Facebook profiles typically when something in the student’s application flagged a concern or caused them to want to get a better handle on the student,” Wong said. “That being said, it’s not as if admissions officers use this source as a matter of course. It’s not a routine prac- tice.”

According to the Kaplan study, over 70 percent of admissions counselors receive friend requests from applicants.

UCSB was not included in the study because its admissions office doesn’t consider Facebook to be a valid source of application information.

According to Director of Admissions Christine Van Gieson, said online information should not be used for admis- sions purposes under any circumstances.

“[At UCSB], we definitely do not look at any online infor- mation because all we use is the material that students have submitted for the purpose of consideration for admission,” Van Gieson said. “I just can’t see the applicability of using it in an application. It’s not official, sanctioned information. It’s for the student’s personal use.” And, Van Gieson said,considering that her office received a pool of over 63,000 total applications for the 2011-12 school year, the university’s counselors simply don’t have the time to incorporate internet material in their decision-making process.

Christina Favuzzi, a high school senior at Santa Barbara’s San Marcos High School, who applied to UCSB for the upcoming school year, said she was shocked to hear the results of the study.

“I would never even think that admis- sions officers would go to Facebook. It seems strange to me that they would look at such a personal thing,” Favuzzi said. “I think it’s kind of invasive and it makes me nervous that Facebook would give officers the wrong impression of a person. [Colleges] should only be judging you on academic merit.”

Despite the results of the study, Wong said, grades, test scores and extra-curricular activities are far more important to applica- tion evaluations than social networking.

“Overall, social networking sites still have a fairly minimal impact,” Wong said. “That said, students need to be smart about this issue and make sure that anything and every- thing they post online presents the image they want to project as an applicant.”