Going to College? Clean Up Your Online Profile First
Many high school students have won the privacy battle with their parents — and now have parents who wouldn’t dare try to hack their Facebook accounts for fear of violating their children’s privacy. It can come as a shock to some high school grads that not only do employers sometimes do online research to dig up dirt on potential employees—admissions officers do it too. What you post online could make a difference between admission to your top school—or a rejection letter.
Here are a few ways you can take control of the information available online about you—and make sure it doesn’t hurt your chances at college admission.
What comes up when you type your name into Google? Is it an article in your local paper about how you helped your high school team win the championship game or led a volunteer effort—or an article about how you burned down the school? Your first tactic in defending and cleaning up your online reputation is to know what people will see when they look for information about you. If you can’t remove negative information, you can at least be prepared for questions about it.
Get rid of photos that don’t reflect well on you from an admissions standpoint.
Google isn’t the only place you have to worry about people finding questionable information about you. YouTube will let you search for videos by name—and someone you know may have tagged you in a video of a prank or other activities that won’t make you look good. Even if you’re not actually in the video, being tagged in one may hurt your chances of getting into a good college if the video is negative enough.
Remove questionable photos
Look over the pictures others have tagged of you on Facebook—as well as the “images” section of Google. Do you find any pictures of you that you wouldn’t want your parents to see—such as a pic of you with a beer can in your hand at a party? Even if the actual occurrence was totally innocent, people will make assumptions—including admissions counselors. Many colleges are trying to move away from the “party school” label, so if it looks like you’re a big partier in your online photos, that could definitely hurt your application.
Edit your Twitter feed, blog posts, and Facebook updates
What do you write about online? Are you raving about the great party last night, or posting negative things about former employers, teachers, or other people you know? Do you post anything that might be construed as offensive to minorities, various religious groups, or any other group of people? Do you mention illegal activities, such as drinking (if you’re under 21) or drug use?
Even if you have your social networking accounts on the strictest privacy settings, people who aren’t on your friends list can still find their way in. AAnd your blog, Twitter feed, and Facebook updates can say a lot about you that you wouldn’t necessarily put in a college admissions essay. Bear in mind that people who don’t know you will take the information you post out of context—so if you intend something to be a joke, don’t expect them to get it.
Make sure your online profiles reflect a positive image
Taking negative information offline is the first step. The next step is to make sure what admissions officers find online reflects the best parts of you—and the way you present yourself in your application. Be sure your Facebook profile has links to interests you demonstrate in your college application. Start a blog about a strong interest that you’re using to promote your candidacy to college admissions officers—whether that’s a blog about community activism, a photography website, or a series of YouTube videos showcasing your acting prowess or your latest invention.
Getting into a top college isn’t easy—competition is tight for those last few spots. Be sure that admissions officers can’t find anything online that would give them an excuse to reject your application. Remove any reference to illegal activities, rants, and potentially offensive opinions. Get rid of photos that don’t reflect well on you from an admissions standpoint. And try to make your online reputation work for you—by demonstrating your intelligence, passion, and readiness for college.
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