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Can we forget what I said on Twitter?

Some college admissions officers consider social media posts when offering spots to students. Are their First Amendment rights being violated?

Updated: March 15, 2022

Before/during class (10 minutes)

Read “College Admissions: The Complete Guide to Social Media” (Kaplan)

Class time needed

20 minutes

Learning objectives

At the conclusion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  • Articulate an understanding of the First Amendment issues around college admissions and social media
  • Examine social media posts to determine if they might influence admission
  • Analyze the legality of denying admission based on speech that may or may not be protected


You’ve heard for years that your behavior on social media could influence your future job prospects. But what about your past? Is there a chance that your high school social media presence influenced your college admission? Many universities report checking social media as a way to help make admission decisions, and confirm that they have denied admission to students based in part on their social media presences. Especially after the murder of George Floyd, schools made headlines when they denied admission to prospective students after discovering racist posts in those students’ past.

Admissions officers may find something offensive or think that posts, likes and shares indicate negative character traits.

Here are six made-up social media posts made by fake prospective students who’ve applied to a state university.

View each one and answer the following two questions:

  1. Does this post represent a legitimate ground for denying enrollment? Why or why not?
  2. Would refusal to admit this student based on these posts violate the First Amendment? Explain your answer.







For further reading

“The First Amendment, Social Media and College Admissions” by Frank LoMonte, Inside Higher Ed

As Racist Posts Circulate, Some Colleges Rescind Admission Offers. Others Say Their Hands Are Tied. (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Colleges Rescinding Admissions Offers as Racist Social Media Posts Emerge (New York Times)