Universities and employers across the United States have rescinded acceptances for incoming college students and prospective employees because of offensive content posted online.
There have been two cases that have gained national attention at Harvard University.
In 2017, at least ten students had their acceptances rescinded from the class of 2021 after posting offensive memes about minorities, the Holocaust, and child abuse on a “private” Facebook chat. According to the Harvard Crimson, Harvard reserves the right to rescind admission if a student’s honesty, maturity, or moral character comes into question.
A survivor of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida had his acceptance rescinded last year after using racial slurs in a Google document when he was 16. According to Inside Higher Ed, he was very apologetic and claimed the racist comments he made do not demonstrate the kind of person he is today. However, Harvard still takes the quality of a perspective student’s maturity and moral character very seriously.
“I talk to kids on a regular basis about the issues that come along with social media: thinking before you post, and if you would not say something offensive to someone in person, you should not say anything offensive online. A wide range of schools, public and private, can have admissions officers go through a perspective student’s social media accounts,” said Ann Iacopelli, a school counselor here at Commack High School.
Employers can look at prospective employee’s social media as well.
“Employers can look at a prospective employee’s social media as a background check and you need to represent employers appropriately,” said Iacopelli.
At the high school level, Iacopelli usually sees modified pictures that students use to make others believe that someone did something they did not. She has seen content that might make someone look foolish and ridiculed with offensive comments.
“Sexual content, reference to drugs and alcohol, and discrimination are the most popular forms of offensive posts that get kids in trouble,” said Iacopelli.
A piece of advice often given to students is that one should consider who is viewing their content.
“When we meet with each class at the beginning of each year, I always make sure that kids are aware that if your grandparents would not want you to post it, then do not post that picture,” said Iacopelli.
Students are becoming more aware of the dangers of social media at an early age, as most children receive their first electronic devices while in elementary school.
It is important for parents to address social media issues when you get your first electronic device. A probable reason why kids would post such inappropriate content is so that they can look cool with their peers. They think the content they are posting is funny, and to gain social clout,” said Iacopelli.
If students get acceptances rescinded, they must handle it on their own terms.
“You can apologize and explain how you should have thought before you posted the offensive content, try to get rid of the offensive content, or try to apply to college or a job somewhere else, but it is important to own up to your situation,” said Iacopelli.
It is also important to make sure that teens know that absolutely nothing is private online. Two ways where colleges can see the content posted are following the individual or using Google.
“Colleges and employers can easily access all of your information and posts just by simply using Google. It is difficult for you guys because everything you do online is documented and you have had social media for most of your lives,” said Iacopelli.
It is also important for students who want to go to college to know that social media is not the only reason why applicants get rescinded. Applicants can also be rescinded due to slipping grades or false information on their applications.
“When students are seniors, they should work as hard as they always have, keep their grades up, and have a full curriculum that includes courses in all subject areas…,” said Iacopelli. 🔳