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Social Media in the MBA Admissions Process: How Careful Should You Be?

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While presidential candidate Donald Trump has shown that decorum on social media is not necessarily a prerequisite for running for the highest office in the land, admissions directors at leading MBA programs suggest that prospective applicants might do well to show a little more caution when it comes to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Just what is the role of social media in the MBA admissions process, you ask? We wondered that, too. To get a clearer picture, we checked in with some of our sources in the admissions offices at leading business schools. We discovered that different schools take different approaches when it comes to checking out a candidate’s social media presence—and protocols are still evolving.

“Social media definitely makes our lives much more interesting these days,” says UT McComb School of Business Director of MBA Admissions Rodrigo Malta. That said, the message he shares with applicants today is the same as it was when he started his job eight years ago, well before Tweets and Facebook statuses became such a part of the mainstream. “We have always said that any touchpoint the applicant has with members of the McCombs community counts toward their application,” he says. Just as if you visited campus and were a jerk to a receptionist or sat in on a class and were disruptive, untoward behavior on social media will be noted in your file, he cautions.

With social media being such a big part of our lives—and with employers looking at it as well—it makes sense for it to play a role in MBA admissions, Malta says. “That’s not to say we Google every candidate to see what comes up or go looking for their Facebook pages,” he says. But if his team gets feedback from a current student or member of the staff that there’s something on social media that warrants attention, they will take a look. “We note anything we find in the same manner we would a personal interaction.”

At the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Googling every applicant is also not a part of the application protocol, but social media does sometimes factor in. “If someone has a common name, it is not going to be worth our time to try to Google you,” Darden Director of Admissions Sara Neher says matter-of-factly. But if an applicant is an entrepreneur, for example, Neher may very likely check out her company website. And her team will certainly look at things on social media that applicants make a point of sharing in their applications.