Those pictures your friend posted to your wall.  The late-night status updates.  If you're a prospective college student, you might want to re-think how you use Facebook.

The number of college admissions officials using Facebook to learn more about an applicant has quadrupled in the past year, underscoring the effect social media has on U.S. culture and academic life, a survey shows. Googling is nearly as prevalent.

The rise suggests a growing acceptance of the practice, despite concerns that it invades student privacy.

Invasion of privacy or not - the practice is here to stay.

"This is the world we live in now," says Paul Marthers, vice president for enrollment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "If you were able to find out that somebody misrepresented themselves in their application, I think it could be used to help you make a decision."

And it's not just a couple of select colleges that are using Facebook and other social media to merit out prospective candidates.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of admissions officials at 359 selective colleges say they used Facebook, up from 6% the previous year, and 20% used Google to help evaluate an applicant, says the survey, conducted by Kaplan Test Prep. Kaplan, which did not identify participating colleges, queried 500 colleges listed in U.S. News & World Report rankings and in Barron's Profiles of American Colleges.

Of survey takers who went online, 12% say what they found "negatively impacted" the applicant's chances of admission. That's down from 38% in 2008, when 10% said they consulted social networking sites while evaluating students. Among offenses cited: essay plagiarism, vulgarities in blogs and photos showing underage drinking.