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Published: Jan 13, 2016
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The likelihood that college admissions officers will check out your Instagram or Facebook in addition to your GPA and application essays is growing.

Fully 40 percent of admissions officers say they visit applicants' social media pages to learn about them, four times the percentage that did so in 2008, according to a just-released survey from Kaplan Test Prep.

However, most respondents (89%) who peeked at social media pages said they did so rarely and on a case-by-case basis. Major reasons include wanting to learn more about an applicant's creative interests, verifying unusual or noteworthy awards, or investigating reports of inappropriate or illegal behavior, according to the survey.

The result isn't always bad news. While a third of admissions officers said they’d discovered something negative that hurt an applicant’s chances of acceptance, the same percentage said they found details, such as leadership roles or community service, that reflected positively on an applicant.

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What’s more, as colleges have started using more “big data” to help make decisions, it’s not uncommon for admissions offices to track applicants’ social media behavior to help predict how likely they are to enroll or succeed on campus. Ithaca College, for example, can infer how interested applicants are by how many campus photos they upload or how many friends they have on IC PEERS, a social site for Ithaca applicants, according to a story by The Hechinger Report.

Today's tech-savvy teens should know their Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter persona reflects on their actual personality. But consider this survey as an important reminder: Don't put anything on social media that you wouldn't submit as part of your college application.