You finished your applications, wrote your admissions essays, and are now looking for scholarships. You are well on your way to becoming a student at your first choice university.
Or are you? Before pressing send and taking it easy the rest of your senior year of high school, let me suggest that you take a quick review of all your social media accounts, and take stock of your general Internet presence.
Each year, more and more colleges are checking up on the social media of their applicants. In fact, the other day a New York Times article came up in my Facebook feed called, "They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets." It's a quick read, but I think you'll be surprised to learn that how you behave and what you post online does have an impact on whether or not you get accepted.
Who knows - maybe it'll come down to you and one other applicant, and the admissions office will need a tie-breaker. Will it be the candidate with the provocative selfie pic, or the one standing in front of a beautiful piece of artwork at the MOMA? Plus, it's just smart to do an occasional check on what information about you is available online. You'd be surprised to see how easy it is to find personal information about yourself.
Download your own copy of the Socal Media Checklist
1. Do a Google search of yourself on your own computer. This is no doubt the easiest way to see what type of information is available about you online. Any public social media accounts will likely come up in the search results as well, so make sure you take note of any offending tweets, Instagram comments, or Facebook posts
- If you find any offending material, go to your own profile or social media account and do your best to delete it.
- Remember, Google is just a catalog of what's available online, so in order to get something deleted from a search, you have to go to the original source and delete the offending material.
2. Did you also do a Google Image search? Any photos that are public and tagged with your name are fair game here. If you find any photos that you don't want public, you need to remove them from the original source. That means, go directly to your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and delete the pictures
- It takes a while for search engines like Google to update their results, so don't expect your information or images to disappear right away. Even if you do remove offending material, the page can still be cached.
- Your best strategy: Avoid photographic and digital evidence of you doing or saying something that you wouldn't want your parents or future boss to see.
3. Make sure all your profiles are set to private.
This is self-explanatory. Do your best to impose the strictest viewing options on all of your social media. This won't necessarily stop information from getting out there, but it will make it difficult for the casual looker to access anything more than your name, profile picture, and basic info.
4. Use a fun and appropriate profile picture.
Use a picture of you doing what you love (playing sports, singing, dancing, camping, reading, etc.), and not doing something embarrassing, inappropriate, or dangerous. Ask yourself this: If the college admissions committee could only see your profile picture before deciding whether or not to accept you (probably not going to happen, but you never know), would they want you on their campus based on what they can see?
5. Consider not using your first and last name.
This is common practice among many, particularly those looking for jobs or applying to school. Using your first and last name when opening up a social media account makes it really easy to find you in a search, but if you use a variation of your name (First Name Last Initial / First Name Middle Name / Nickname Last Name), you are still accessible to those who know you while making it difficult for people you aren't close with find you in a search.
6. Extra Credit: Do a Google search of yourself on a different computer.
Our personal computers know us better than we know ourselves. The search results we get on our devices will actually differ from those you'd get on another device because our search histories are logged. It's creepy. What that means is that doing a Google search on yourself on your own computer will likely give you different results than if you do the same search on a friend or family member's computer. To be really thorough, log onto a school or library computer and do a search.
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Here's some other resources that you might be interested in that'll help you with your college admissions essays.
Best of luck to you in your college search!