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Medical school applicants’ attitudes about social media use in the admissions process

Lauren B Solberg, Phillip N Nguyen.

Abstract
Objective: Given the widespread popularity of social media and the increasing number of medical school admissions
committees who research applicants using social media, the objective of this study is to determine how medical school
applicants feel about the use of their posted social media information by medical school admissions committees to aid in
admissions decisions and what changes they had made or considered making to their social media presence in preparation
for the medical school application process. Methods: With the assistance of 6 different institutions, we recruited individuals
applying to medical school during the 2014-2015 academic year with intent to enroll in Fall 2015 to respond to a 43-item
web-based survey. Potential participants received electronic communications from their university’s pre-medical advisor
and/or pre-medical student group with a link to the survey. Results: Seventy-one completed surveys were returned. Only
25% (18/71) of participants had made changes to their social media in preparation for the application process; another 9%
(5/53) planned to do likewise. While many felt it was acceptable for admissions committees to review applicants’ social
media pages (52/71, 73%) and use that information to inform admissions decisions (45/71, 63%), a large majority wished
admissions programs would clearly inform applicants whether it might review and use information gained from an applicant’s’
social media profile (55/71, 78%). While many participants understood they may be evaluated by admissions committees
based on perceptions of their professionalism on social media, there is still a need for education by undergraduate programs
on the matter. Conclusions: Medical school admissions offices can use these results of this study to decide whether and
how much to communicate with applicants about how online professionalism may be factored into the admissions process.

Key words: Premedical education; Premedical students; Professional ethics; School admission criteria; Social media; Undergraduate medical education



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