By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s the Ivy League put down that has soon-to-be college applicants scrambling to check their social media pages — and if they aren’t, they probably should be.

“Thirty-five percent of all admissions [offices] look at social media when they look at college applications,” says Catherine Marrs, a Dallas educational consultant, “and I think that it’s more.”

For more than a decade, Marrs and her associates have helped families navigate the increasingly complicated and competitive college admissions process. So she says she’s not surprised that Harvard officials learned about; then took swift action against some 10 students involved in posting offensive memes in an a private chat room. The private group spun off one organized for incoming freshmen.

“They are definitely looking at social media,” says Marr. “So students who are out partying: make sure there are no glasses in their hands, whether it’s a glass of water or glass of vodka, a college admissions officer is going to make their own judgment.”

The memes ran the gamut of distaste– from jokes about the holocaust to sexual abuse to beastiality.

“Wow,” was the reaction of Caroline Cox of McKinney. “I’ve never seen something like that happen.” Cox will turn 17 in about a week and will begin the college application process soon afterwards. The Senior at McKinney Boyd says even before she was allowed social media access, her parents stressed the responsibility that accompanied it. “My parents every single day tell me to be careful what you post!” And, she adds, they also monitor her social media footprint as a precaution. “At first, I was weirded out by it… but, I realized there was a point to it.”

Now, as she prepares to apply to places like Fordham University, Carnegie Mellon, George Washington and UT Austin, she says she has no concerns about what an admissions officer might find on her social media pages. In fact, she fully expects that they will check.

“A lot of people think that their social media isn’t taken seriously,” says Caroline, “and that in context, things are funny. But, things aren’t always seen in context.”
So Marrs says her first advice to clients is to clean up their social media pages.

“Pay attention to what they post, tweet, Instagram, Facebook, whatever: they need to be sensitive to the fact that others are reading it, not just their friends.”

It is a lesson that some would-be-Ivy Leaguers learned, tuition free.

“Your words have effects on other people,” says Caroline, “and it’s time for people to realize that.”