Rick Shaw, Stanford University, Answers Five Questions


Rick Shaw, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Stanford University, answers five questions for us this month as everyone heads to campus.

Stanford University was founded in 1891 by Jane and Leland Stanford in memory of their only child who died of typhoid fever. The 8,180-acre campus, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, was originally the Stanford family's Palo Alto Stock Farm, used for the breeding and training of trotting horses and thoroughbreds. It is still affectionately called "The Farm." 

Today, the university's grounds include 800 different species of plants, 25 fountains, the 285-foot Hoover Tower that dominates its skyline, and an extensive collection of outdoor art -- Rodin's The Gates of Hell, the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, Andy Goldsworthy's Stone River, as well as works by Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Bruce Beasley, Maya Lin and more.

Colleges Know Who You Are and May See What You Do

What does your digital footprint look like? You may want to check it out. The use of social networking sites and Internet search engines in the admission process is on the rise. Increasing numbers of admission professionals are turning to Facebook, Twitter, Google and other online resources to learn more about prospective students.

Kaplan Test Prep's 2011 survey of college admission officers found that 24% of the colleges surveyed reported they have gone to an applicant's Facebook or other social networking page to learn more about them. That figure is up from 10% in 2008. Furthermore, 20% of schools have Googled applicants.  Kaplan also found that 12% percent of the admission officers who used social media or online tools found material that hurt the student's chance of admission -- usually postings of uncouth activities, plagiarism, alcohol use or other "illegal activities."

While most admission offices do not routinely follow a student's digital trail, students need to think about their use of social media and web presence -- including what others are saying about them online. Be aware that colleges may turn here to learn more about you. The internet has a long memory. Google yourself and see what comes up. A good rule of thumb going forward? Don't post anything you don't want a college admission officer -- or your grandmother -- to see.

A Must Read Report for Scholarship Applicants

A new report from Mark Kantrowitz, founder and publisher of and,  is a must-read for scholarship applicants. Sponsored by Fastweb and the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA), the study found that about a quarter of scholarship providers are using Google and social media websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, to screen applicants. They're looking primarily for one or more red flags, such as signs that an applicant might reflect badly on the scholarship sponsor.  The report includes recommendations for scholarship applicants -- reviewing their Facebook accounts, Googling themselves and correcting problems when possible, and using appropriate email addresses. Read the full report here. It's good advice for all applicants!