School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Veronica Sims


Social Media, College Admissions, Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, Selective Institutions, Spontaneous Trait Inference, Deese-Roediger-McDermott


Education | Educational Leadership | Higher Education


This causal comparative study examines the impact of decisions made by college admissions personnel at colleges and universities ranked as Highly Competitive, Highly Competitive Plus, Most Competitive, Very Competitive, and Very Competitive Plus by Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges (2018). Admissions representatives were asked to evaluate social media content of hypothetical applicants to their institution then complete a trait inference task based on the Deese-Roediger-McDermott false recognition paradigm. A total of 413 institutions were invited to participate in the online activity to establish the effect of online impression formation by admissions personnel and its impact on admissions decisions. The survey was completed by 44 institutional admissions representatives (n = 44). Admissions decisions results were then compared for effects of the treatment utilizing two one-way ANOVAs. A Welch’s t-test was then utilized to compare decisions between institutions with a self-reported policy regarding inclusion of social media in admissions decisions and those without such a policy in place. Results found significance on the false recognition paradigm, but not on admissions decisions based on the social media posts nor when institutions were classified by the presence of an institutional policy regarding its use in the admissions process. Thus, it was determined this sample of admissions personnel made spontaneous trait inferences from social media posts of hypothetical applicants. Suggestions for future research are included.