A Crazy Facebook Trend: Teens Friending Admission Officers

Last Updated Sep 21, 2009 8:27 PM EDT

I can't even believe that I'm asking this question, but here goes: Should a teenager try to become a Facebook friend with a college admission officer?

Sounds crazy? I thought so, but a new survey by Kaplan, Inc., indicates that plenty of teenagers are inviting admissions officers to become their virtual buddies. In its annual survey of more than 400 top schools, 71% of admission officers said they or colleagues had received a Facebook or MySpace friend invitation from one or more applicants.

One admission officer who has become awfully popular among hopeful college applicants is Jeannine C. Lalonde, who is senior assistant dean of admission at the University of Virginia. In the spring, she rejected about 20 friend requests before she reluctantly announced that she would start accepting Facebook invitations. After her change of heart, she quickly added roughly 50 teenage pals to her Facebook page.

Lalonde told me that she thought these friend requests were "strange" and she wondered, "Do they realize they are opening up their profiles to me?" Lalonde, however, said that she made clear to the teenagers that she had no desire to peer at their profiles and she invited the teenagers to block her from accessing their pages.

So why are kids trying to become buddies with the adults reading their college applications? Carina Wong, Kaplan's executive director of communications, offers this suggestion: "Students today find themselves in a hyper competitive environment and they want to stand out in the applicant pool and get every advantage."

It's hard to imagine, however, that teenagers whose Facebook pages could very well contain sexual innuendos, profanity and photos of beer drinking is really going to boost their chances of admission.

While you might dismiss this phenomenon as an example of youthful naivety, it's not just teenagers who are friending the very authority figures who will determine their academic fate. Admission officers at 50% of business schools, 48% of law schools and 31% of medical schools reported in the Kaplan survey that they or their colleagues have also received friend requests from applicants.

Go figure.