Character Counts in College Admissions

We urge all high school students to pay attention to the controversy rocking the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a real-life lesson: what happens in high school does not stay in high school.

Regardless of whom you believe in this case – Judge Kavanaugh or Professor Ford – or the eventual outcome of the confirmation process, this case serves to remind us that moral character matters. It always has. Character defines you as a person and is established by the decisions you make, large and small.  Character is part of the legacy of your life.  What you do now, as a teenager, matters in the short term and can establish your future.


Character really matters in college admissions. Admissions officers care deeply about academic and personal integrity and seek clues from your application that you are a leader, role model and positive contributor to your community.

Kavanaugh & social media in college applications

Letters of recommendation from teachers and counselors are read closely to get a sense of the applicant’s character and contributions to his/her school and community. With increasing numbers of students chronicling all aspects of their lives on social media, it only stands to reason that information shared via these platforms can eventually make its way into the admissions process. In fact, a spring 2018 survey of college admissions officers found that the majority of college admissions officers and students think that applicants’ social media accounts are fair game for scrutiny. Character is alive and well on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Social media & Kavanaugh in college admissions


Now’s the time to check your social media presence. Any tweets, blogs and posts that highlight behavior that could be viewed as illegal or objectionable – no matter when they were created — can lead admissions officers to question your character and integrity. An otherwise strong applicant may be denied admission and admitted students may see their offers rescinded after social media posts bring to light evidence of behaviors that would not be welcome on any campus.

Don’t believe us? Here are two recent examples:

  • Harvard revoked 10 admissions offers after students were found to have participated in a private Facebook group, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”. The group reportedly joked about the Holocaust and abusing children, as well as made derogatory comments about members of racial and ethnic groups.
  • A student admitted to the University of Rochester presented herself as a homeschooled student. Trouble ensued when someone at her private high school spotted a post on Facebook about starting her freshman year at the university and found it odd since the student had never asked her high school to send her transcript to Rochester. The high school notified the university and it was soon discovered that the student had falsified her application. Pretty soon thereafter, the student was kicked out of the university.

And, remember, it’s not just your social media. Did your “friends” post a photo of you doing something you wouldn’t want your grandmother to know about? Guess what? Admissions officers might just see that post. Every year admissions officers get “anonymous” forwards of unflattering social media content related to an applicant. You knew admissions was competitive, but from a friend?


As you finish up your essays and supplements, spend a little time cleaning up your online presence and make good choices. Our recommendations:

  • Remove any posts that are questionable or objectionable. They will resurface at some point and may have repercussions.
  • Those fake accounts you created? Remember that someone can easily take a screenshot of that content and share that with others. Now is a good time to delete them.

Take some advice from Abraham Lincoln, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Be the tree.


  1. Jenna bolton

    Posted on September 24, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    It sounds like you convicted Kavanaugh before the hearings even begin. Where is your American character? Innocent before PROVEN guilty.

    • TTA

      Posted on October 1, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      We were not offering any judgement on whether or not he is guilty of the allegations that have been leveled against him. Instead, we were pointing out that what you do in high school DOES matter and the adage that “what happens in high school, stays in high school’ is simply not true. If teachers or students made serious allegations about a student’s conduct (including online behavior), admissions officers would take this very seriously and, if these allegations are found to be true, not admit the student or, if the student had already been admitted, the offer would be rescinded. Thank you.

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