Many students regularly use social media. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and TikTok are all big names in the social networking world. While this means it’s easier for us to connect with friends, it also exposes us to unknown users. Some of these users could be the college admissions officers who make decisions about your future.
Students should always be aware of their online content.
Not all colleges and universities take into account an applicant’s social media profiles, but many will look, especially if they are easy to find. Organizations responsible for awarding scholarships often use social media to assess one’s character. A student could be outstanding in an interview but damage their credibility with an irresponsible post. Even athletic departments and financial aid offices use social media platforms to gather information beyond the application.
Be smart. Remember who is looking. Make sure your profile represents what an admissions officer, athletic recruiter, or a scholarship coordinator would deem appropriate.
Ways to clean up your social profile.
- Change your privacy settings. Changing your privacy settings puts you in control of what your profile looks like to others. Choosing the right settings is especially important as there are so many options regarding what you make visible to whom. You should regularly monitor your privacy settings to ensure that you know who can see your wall, photos and likes, as well as who can tag you and who can look you up.
- Clean up your pictures. You may started your social network in middle school, so you probably consider your first few profile pictures too old to be relevant. Now is the time to look back and delete anything embarrassing, irrelevant, and more importantly, inappropriate. After you’ve combed through your photos, your profile should be free of any pictures with offensive language, inappropriate gestures or clothing, or anything else you wouldn’t want admissions officers to see. Delete anything containing nudity, alcohol, drugs, racial slurs, and offensive language or signs. Even a photo of someone wearing a t-shirt with a beer brand’s logo on it should be deleted.
- Look over what you’ve “liked” on social media. Yes, really. If you’ve had your account since middle school, this could be very helpful. You may find things you don’t actually “like” anymore, or you may find posts that are no longer appropriate. “I stare blankly into my locker when I’m trying to remember my homework,” or “Telling your mom something you thought was funny and getting yelled at for it” or “I hate when I actually do my homework and the teacher doesn’t even collect it” aren’t positive ways to present yourself to potential coaches, counselors and admissions officers. The few minutes it takes will be well worth your time.
- Make your Twitter profile clean and professional. Your Twitter handle is often how people contact you or look you up. If you want people to find you, your handle should somewhat resemble your real name. For example, @firstnamelastname7, or maybe the @firstinitialfulllastname. In any case, avoid inappropriate handles.
- Be aware of the handles you are “following.” Don’t retweet or repost content from friends with inappropriate handles or organizations with unprofessional handles. Though you may not release the content yourself, recirculating this information still makes a statement about you. Consider following users who post about things relative to your professional goals, or at least handles that are aren’t offensive.
- Make sure your user bio is relevant and professional. Try to weed out inappropriate quotes or risqué jokes that could be taken out of context. If you can’t think of how you want to represent yourself in the bio, you can always leave it blank.
The thought of being denied college admission based on your social media profiles is intimidating, but there are ways to use social media sites to your advantage.
Professional networking sites like LinkedIn, allow you to share your experience, talents and accomplishments. If you ensure your social media profiles show you in a positive light, you can share them on your college application to encourage admission officers to take a look. As long as you keep your profiles clean, professional and updated, you can confidently set them to allow for sharing with others!
The best rule of thumb is to apply common sense when using any social medium. Be safe. Eliminate anything you wouldn’t want someone influential to see. Consider using apps like Socioclean to automatically detect inappropriate content – especially if you’ve had your account for many years. And finally, stay on top of the upkeep, as social media platforms and settings change often.
Following is a list of popular social media sites.
To ensure a clean online presence, we recommend taking the time to write down your username and check each site for inappropriate information. Once you’ve finished, It’s a good idea to have a parent or guardian check again in case there is content you might have missed.
It’s important to take some time to clean up your social media before you apply for college.