Who’s That?: Behind Facebook “Senior Names”

Alicia Jen ’16 (AKA PledgeOf AliJence), Features Editor

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Like on any lazy summer afternoon, you’re scrolling mindlessly on Facebook until something makes you suddenly scroll up—an unfamiliar name. You don’t remember being Facebook friends with that person. In fact, is that even an actual name? Then you recognize the profile picture and realize it’s just a senior you know from a class. This happens again and again until your timeline is littered with comical monikers, all made by seniors.

Senior names started popping up a few years ago, and they’ve gotten more common since. What’s behind the craze? According to Ashley Cui ’16 (who goes by “Cuidditch Captain,” deriving from the Harry Potter book series), the main purpose is “hiding from colleges.” This isn’t surprising; in a time of the year when every senior is scrutinizing their identities to present the best package to college admissions, there are probably some things on their walls that are best kept hidden. Those embarrassing birthday posts sure shouldn’t be seen next to any résumé, and the kid who’s a diligent student by day and a party animal by night probably wants to keep the latter under wraps.

Something getting exposed to an admissions officer could be one of a student’s worst fears: a meticulously arranged application toppled by an innocuous, but perhaps profane post. Is it actually a valid fear, though? Colleges are swamped with thousands of applications each year, and with only, say, fifteen minutes to spend on each one, it’s hard to believe that an admissions officer would take the time to look up and carefully examine a student on social media. But the idea isn’t without truth. A 2013 survey by Kaplan Test Prep found that 35% of college admissions officers visit the social media profiles of applicants. However, this very rarely ends up affecting an admissions decision, according to a Kaplan expert.

There might be other factors at work. Sanath Nagaraj ’16 (otherwise known as “Lady Naga,” like the pop singer) notes that senior names are not only for “concealing [one’s] identity from colleges,” but also for “entertaining.” Senior names seem to have become both a disguise and a fun coming-of-age tradition, akin to a lighthearted competition for the “punniest,” cleverest name. Seniors give one other suggestions, compliment and critique names, and may agonize over coming up with a name to the point that they nearly give up – until an epiphany (or rather, epi-funny) strikes. Bonus points to those who have Photoshopped profile pictures to fit their new identities!

So what makes a senior name? The best senior names smoothly integrate the original name with a widely-recognized reference perhaps through rhymes or similarly-pronounced words. Make sure the real name is still discernible; it’ll probably take some strategic spacing, punctuation, and capitalization. For maximum “entertainment,” senior names are usually based on celebrities, pop culture, and popular phrases. For students who are serious about flying under the radar, some senior names include exotic symbols like ü or í to further throw off admissions officers. For those whose senior years are still ahead of them, it’s never too early to start thinking!

There comes a time when you notice that the senior names have quietly disappeared. It’s not that the seniors have lost their sense of fun; in fact, it signifies that at last, the grueling college admissions process has ended in triumph. The comical distractions are needed no more, and if you choose to believe so, the “punny” code-names served their users well.


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Who’s That?: Behind Facebook “Senior Names”