Saturday, September 21

Study by Kaplan Test Prep found law schools look at social networking sites when evaluating applicants more often than other graduate schools

Law schools may be looking at applicants’ Facebook pages more often than other admissions offices, according to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2011 survey of college admissions officers.

The study, released Oct. 24, surveyed undergraduate, business school and law school admissions officers from 359 different schools by phone during the summer.

Twenty percent of undergraduate admissions officers and 27 percent of business school admissions officers who responded said they have previously utilized social networking sites, such as Facebook, to learn more about an applicant.

The number was much higher “”mdash; 37 percent “”mdash; for law school officers.

“The data makes sense when you think about what law admissions officers do,” said Jeff Thomas, director of Pre-Law Programs for Kaplan. “And that is to determine who would be best fit to eventually become attorneys.”

One possible explanation for why law school officers are more likely to look at an applicant’s social media page is because of the nature of the profession, Thomas said.

People studying to become attorneys must pass tests to measure their character and compatibility with the field prior to becoming certified as a lawyer. Even after certification, attorneys practice law under the threat of disbarment due to unethical behavior.

Thomas said strict codes of conduct for lawyers may be why law schools are inclined to carefully determine which applicants would be able to conform to such expectations.

“The legal profession is self-regulating and holds attorneys to higher ethical standards than most other professions,” Thomas said. “Students can’t earn admission to the bar by simply going to law school.”

Of the law admissions officers who said they have used Facebook or other social websites to screen applicants, 32 percent said they have found something online that harmed an applicant’s chances of admission. Only 12 percent of undergraduate admissions officers and 14 percent of business school officers responded the same way.

In a separate poll released earlier this month, Kaplan reported 77 percent of students who took the October LSAT said they objected to admissions officers using their virtual life as part of the admissions process.

Martin Asmuss, a third-year law student, said he is not worried about admissions officers finding anything negative on his Facebook page, and would do the same if he were in their position.

The poll also reported 15 percent of students who took the October LSAT said there was something online that could hurt their chances of being admitted into law school.

Robert Schwartz, dean of admissions at the UCLA School of Law, said that checking applicants’ social networking pages is not part of their standard admissions process. Due to the large number of students applying, the task would be impractical, Thomas said.

He said he is surprised by the differences in data between law schools and other schools.

“One’s character is extremely important in the legal profession, (but) it does surprise me that the numbers for law schools are higher,” Schwartz said. “I would think business schools would be just as concerned with ethical standards.”

He said the best way for students to protect themselves to make sure anything they post online doesn’t harm them professionally or academically is to use good judgment.

“(The results are) sort of surprising, but not terribly surprising,” said Dominic Rossetti, a third-year law student. “A lot of potential employers look at Facebook.”

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