You’ve worked hard for years to get into a good college. You’ve studied hard, made the grades you need, and participated in more extracurricular activities than you should have had time to fit into your schedule. Unfortunately, there’s still something that could ruin your chances of getting into your first-choice college: your social media accounts. Today’s college admissions departments are familiar with social media, and they’ll check out anything that you’ve made public before they decide what to do with your application. If you’re ready to apply to college, there are several steps you should take to make sure your social media accounts pass the test.
Lock down your privacy settings. Your privacy settings should be strict anyway. You share things on your social media accounts that you don’t mind your friends and family seeing, but strangers certainly don’t need to view. As you’re applying for colleges, however, your settings need to be tighter than ever before. Keep your privacy settings as high as they’ll go. Then, view your account from an account that isn’t on your friends list or while you’re logged out. What can you see? Keeping visible information as clean and professional as possible will be a point in your favor.
Clean up all of your accounts. If you’ve posted offensive content in the past, including inappropriate pictures, inappropriate remarks, or comments that could be misconstrued, now is the time to delete them. This includes your Pinterest account, which is always publicly searchable. That funny picture that caused your friends to howl with laughter might not be so funny to your future professors. If you simply must have that x-rated information for future reference, save it to a “private”
board to avoid it being seen by someone you’d rather keep in the dark about your personal activities. You should also check out your Facebook “likes,” the people you follow on Twitter, and anything else that gives a potentially negative view of your personality and interests. From here on out, resist the urge to post that information whenever possible. Remember, it’s not just your college admissions department that will be searching your social media accounts. Future employers are also tech-savvy and interested in what you’ve posted–so keep it clean!
Google yourself regularly. Include not just your name but also your city and state of residence to ensure that you’re pulling up information that’s actually about you instead of wading through pages of irrelevant information. What comes up when you search for yourself? Keep in mind that your habit of never posting anything questionable might not be enough to save you if your friends are posting pictures of your least-appropriate weekend activities and tagging you or calling you by name in them. You can’t know what’s out there in blog posts, public records, and other people’s accounts unless you take the time to check in regularly.
Hire a professional if necessary. Have you let too much information about yourself get “out there” where anyone can see it? If you can’t clean it up yourself, it’s time to call in a professional. Hiring a service to clean up your internet presence can be the difference between an acceptance letter and an, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have an opening for you at this time.” One of our favorite resources is Social Assurity LLC, check them out now before you even start the application process.
Make your social media sites work to your advantage. Your college expects you to have a social media presence. While keeping it locked down tightly is one way to portray yourself as a responsible student, there are other ways to improve your standing in their eyes. For example, what are you posting on public pages that anyone can view? When you’re respectful but passionate, it looks great to the colleges that are checking you out. Engage in discussions on pages relevant to your interests. Keep in mind that, while grammar and spelling might not matter as much online, it will create a much more professional appearance if you correct those mistakes every once in a while.
For parents of younger children and teens, you can help instill good technology habits before they even begin to dream about a future college or career by utilizing a trustworthy parental control service. Netsanity for example, offers a variety of parental controls for Apple and Android mobile devices. This can be a great way for parents to instill balance and safe use of social media on mobile devices. Parental controls work best when they are actively used by parents in tandem with great discussions along the way about using social media wisely and in moderation.
Your social media accounts can work for you to create the image of a student that any college would love to have, or they can work against you to create the image of a student that they don’t even want to let darken their doors. If you’re applying for colleges, there’s no time like the present to start cleaning up your accounts.
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