The college application process, already a source of considerable stress to the average high school student, apparently has a new component. According to a New York Times article by Sarah Maslin Nir:
For high school students concerned with college acceptance, Facebook presents a challenge. It encourages making public every thought and every photo, an opportunity for posturing and bravado nearly irresistible to teenagers. But this impulse for display clashes with the need to appear circumspect and presentable to college admissions agents, who some high school guidance counselors have warned are likely vetting applicants by trolling the Web.
While the actual role of Facebook in college admissions is a little unclear—the University of Michigan had like 30,000 applicants for fall 2010; pretty sure the admissions staff is too busy reading the essays to fool around on Facebook—kids still get worried. So sometimes they change their names on Facebook. According to the Times article,
New spellings are standard: Amy is now Aim E, and Ms. Kaye became Charlotte K. A nickname will also do. At the Ramaz School in Manhattan, Amanda Uziel changed her Facebook name to Uzi Shmuzi. Puns and wordplay are held in higher esteem.
This sort of thing seems far more complicated than it needs to be. The kids, after all, are in high school. What do they have to hide? Still, apparently changing privacy settings are pretty difficult for some people, so maybe the name changes make sense.
The name changes may be more of a high school fad than an actual protection against college admissions problems. Apparently most students change their names back once they make college decisions.