According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2011 surveys of admissions officers at the top law schools, business schools and colleges across the U.S., those responsible for helping to produce tomorrow’s lawyers are by far the most likely to check out their prospective students’ digital trails.
According to Kaplan’s data, 41% of law school admissions officers said they have Googled an applicant to learn more about them, while 37% have checked out an applicant on Facebook or other social networking site. This compares with 20% of college admissions officers and 27% of business school admissions officers who have Googled an applicant. For these populations, less than a quarter (24% of college admissions officers and 22% of business school admissions officers) have visited an applicant’s Facebook page.
Additionally, not only do law schools have the highest prevalence of admissions officers checking applicants’ digital trails, but also the highest prevalence of discovery of content damaging to applicants. Nearly a third of admissions officers who researched an applicant online – 32% – said they discovered something that negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances. In comparison, only 12% of college admission officers and 14% of business school admissions officers found something online that negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances.
“These findings make sense in context with what we consistently hear from law school admissions officers, which is that while admissions is based on high LSAT scores, strong GPAs and compelling personal statements, an overarching theme to the entire application is whether an applicant is able to exercise good judgment,” said Jeff Thomas, director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “Clearly, an applicant’s digital trail can be an indicator of whether or not he or she possesses this quality.”
Thomas notes, “Despite jokes and negative stereotyping of lawyers, the reality is that the legal community takes ethics among its members very seriously. You not only have to be accepted to a state bar to practice law, but once you are admitted, unethical behavior can lead to your disbarment, stripping you of your ability to practice. Not many other professions have that kind of enforceable code of conduct, so it’s natural that law schools screen more stringently and more often.”
In a separate survey of 869 Kaplan Test Prep students who took the October LSAT, 77% objected to having their online personae included as part of the admissions process (although only 15% said that there is something in their personal digital footprint that might negatively affect their application.). Interestingly, the same percentage – 77% – also said that as future lawyers they should be held to a higher ethical standard than other professionals.
Other survey results from Kaplan Test Prep’s 2011 survey of law school admissions officers:
- No in-state Admissions Advantage: 85% of admissions officers said that applicants who reside in the state where their law school is located have no advantage over non-resident applicants.
- Financial Aid: 30% said that the level of financial aid for students increased over the previous year; 10% said the amount has increased; 44% said the amount stayed the same.
- Class Size: 38% report they decreased the size of its incoming 2011 class over the previous year. 8% said they increased it; 51% say they left it the same.
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