Harvard Insider Tips

Students Unaccepted at Harvard

Post by: Dr. Michele Hernandez

We’ve always emphasized with our students that their behavior is important both in school and outside of school. Honor codes are important, but so is living by a personal honor code even when a school does not have a formal code. When I was an admissions officer at Dartmouth, there were always a handful of admitted students we “un” admitted late in the game thanks to cheating incidents, plagiarism, honor code violations, school disciplinary events, even felonies.

Back when I worked in admissions, social media was a new concept that we really didn’t see much of. Nowadays of course, social media is omnipresent. Here at Top Tier Admissions we urge our students to SANITIZE their Facebook/Instagram/Twitter accounts to the point that a grandmother could read it and not be offended. The safest thing to do is ASSUME anyone can see all your information and act accordingly. We call it “grandparent-proofing” in our Application Boot Camp programs each summer. We ask students to “Google themselves” and review what they see.

It’s not just a matter of having privacy settings as vindictive friends can screenshot even a “private” page and send along to an admissions office. Yes, this happens.


Our advice would have been helpful for the 10 students who were just “unaccepted” from Harvard University. Not only did they violate basic tenets of human decency with racist, sexist and ethnic slurs and commentary, they decided to share this on a PUBLIC and official Harvard website.

Though most colleges don’t actively seek out students’ Facebook pages, it’s not unheard of for admissions officers to run a Google search or read information sent to them by a school/parent/classmate. In the case of these unfortunate Harvard admits, they made unwise decisions to stoop to a level that is unfortunately being encouraged by our current administration but is unwelcome in all facets of life, including academia. There is no place for intolerance of minority students, immigrants, Muslims, Hispanics or LBGQT students, either in society or in an institution of higher learning. These students posted on Harvard’s official Facebook Class of 2021 page and later on private message groups that were spin-offs.

Though we understand that many campuses have “meme wars” that focus on being politically incorrect, it’s easy to cross over the line to just plain offensive. Clearly it’s a complicated issue but we don’t think Harvard is wrong for making it clear that this kind of intolerance is not okay, anytime, anyplace. One wonders what these students will do next year now that they are officially shut out of Harvard and have given up other acceptance offers. Time will tell.

Just remember, anything you put on Facebook (that is not protected or “hidden” using Facebook security settings) can be read by your parents, teachers, and college admissions officers. A recent study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that 25 percent of college admissions offices admit to using search engines such as Google and Yahoo to research potential students and that 20 percent look for the same information on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. The reality is that the percentages must be even higher because colleges and universities have little incentive to overstate their reliance on these digital dirt web searches but they have a significant incentive to understate their use due to a fear of negative public relations and likely backlash from many Gen Y candidates who view information that they post to Facebook and some of the other social networking sites as somehow being private even though it is often accessible through a quick Google search.

Be smart and think before you tweet or post!

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