Seniors Change Facebook Names for Tradition,Colleges

By Sara Heimlich, Social Media and PR Editor

It’s that time of the year, the start of school, when finding seniors on Facebook is nearly impossible.
As their last year of high school begins, many seniors choose to change their name to a playful nickname. Some seniors attempt to “hide” from college admissions officers, and others just follow what has become a senior tradition.
According to a Nov. 9, 2014 New York Times article, 35 percent of 403 surveyed college admissions officers said they looked at applicants’ social media pages.
However, other colleges, such as Penn State, do not look at social media sites.
“With over 80,000 applicants each year, we do not have to ability to research each student’s social media presence and determine if that should impact a student’s admissibility into the University,” said Penn State University undergraduate admissions officer Caley Glasgow.
According to the New York Times article, bigger schools are less likely to look up applicants online due to the number of applications, whereas smaller schools have the extra time to do so.
Some students have realized they are being searched and have attempted to prevent any issues from the start.
“I changed my name so colleges don’t see me doing stupid things that could jeopardize my acceptance,” senior Adam Gray said.
According to senior Isabel Jordan, it is important to be conscious of what is posted on social media. Anything online is fair game for colleges because everything on the web is public.
According to Shelley Levine, an educational planner for the consulting agency College Bound, pictures of alcohol and drugs raise a red flag to colleges. Posts that demonstrate racism, bullying, cheating and insulting others reflect the person in a negative light as well. However, posts on controversial issues are fine as long as they do not slam others. Pictures of students in bathing suits are not an issue either.
Despite the fact that some posts may not be detrimental, Levine doesn’t advise students to change their name.
“Instead I advise them to be responsible about posting on social media sites,” Levine said. “This applies to college applications, job searches because potential employers view social media sites as well, and overall responsible, mature and ethical behavior. My filter is that ‘If you wouldn’t want your mom, dad or grandmother to see your post, don’t put it out there.’”
Independent educational consultant Wendie Lubic advises her students to do the same.
“Not only will it look odd for a teen to not have a presence on social media, there is always the chance that a search engine will dig up an archived page, so it will be obvious that the student has deleted or changed the account,” Lubic said. “Colleges are looking for consistency. If the social media account reinforces information on the application, that is a good thing. If you say something is an important part of your life on the application and there is no sign of it on your social media accounts, then it will raise questions.”
While some students seek to mask themselves from college, others change their name for the sake of senior tradition.
Senior Sophia Giavotto changed her name on Facebook to “Sopht Served Gelato.”
“I came up with my name one day just hanging out with my friends and we got onto the topic of changing our names on Facebook,” Giavotto said. “We just started finding words that rhymed with our name or sounded similar, and little by little we got our new names.”
Senior Raz Moayed, who changed her name to Ra’s Al Ghul, changed her name for fun as well.
“I don’t really want to prevent colleges from seeing anything,” Moayed said. “I have nothing to hide, but I do it because it’s sort of fun and a senior tradition.”
Whether the online world works in students’ favor, colleges can still see applicant profiles, and students are doing their best to prepare for it.
“I have always been very careful about what I post on any kinds of social media,” Giavotto said. “I haven’t gone back to see if there was anything that would reflect badly on me. If people are able to find something that doesn’t look good then I shouldn’t hide it. I’m human, and I’m not going to pretend to be someone that I’m not just for college.”