by MEGAN BRINKWORTH '16
Picture this: It’s a student’s first official college visit and she is sitting in an information session for prospective students. This is the college she has been dreaming of going to ever since she was little. As she listens to the dean of admissions speak, she decides to get on Twitter and tweet about her experience so far. Little did this student know, these “funny” tweets to her friends would ultimately deny her admission.
With college admissions deadlines approaching and constantly on our minds, you may be asking yourself why this girl was denied admission. It doesn’t appear that she said or did anything wrong, but in her inappropriate tweets she included the name of the school she was visiting. Later the school saw these posts because, like most colleges, they keep track of their social media mentions. You may think that this girl just made a poor decision and that this would never happen to you. But, most of us have been guilty of mindlessly posting online at some point. We often just tweet whatever comes to mind, without thinking about the long-term consequences first. With social media always at our finger-tips, it’s easy to forget that virtually anyone has access to everything we post.
As unbelievable as it might seem, college admissions are actively searching on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for their applicants. In fact, according to a study done by Kaplan Test Prep in 2013, 31% of admissions officers said they visit these sites to learn more about students. Shockingly, 30% out of this 31% said that what they saw negatively affected the student’s application. This may seem like a low percentage, but each year more admissions officers join the search. Although it’s not on the news everyday that a student was denied admission because of social media, it does happen.
Even if you use a privacy setting on all your social media sites, admissions officers are still likely to Google you and find information. It’s hard for us to understand, but even if an inappropriate post or comment is deleted, it’s not really gone. Someone has already re-tweeted, favorite, or taken a screenshot of that post. Even if you think it’s gone, your comment is out there where anyone could find it. Someone, like a college admissions or financial aid officer, CEO, or coach, could even read that post as their first-impression of you.
If there are some posts out there that you might be ashamed of, it’s beneficial to clean up your social media sites, especially before applying to college.
It’s not as easy as changing your name on Facebook: Despite contrary belief, coming up with a fake middle name doesn’t hide anything. If a college admissions officer searches you on Facebook and doesn’t find you, chances are they’ll find another social media site that you’re on.
Scroll back to the very beginning: As unpleasant as those middle school years on Facebook may be for some of us, it’s important to look back at all your posts. This way you can assure that anything inappropriate that you said is gone, even if it was from seventh grade.
Consider changing your twitter handle: This is the first thing that people see when they search for you on Twitter. Similar to Facebook, it’s best to have your real name instead of hiding behind a potentially inappropriate fake one. This is true for your Instagram username as well. If necessary, change your handle or username to something appropriate that still represents you.
Take advantage of resources: If you’ve had your social media for a while and don’t want to spend time checking through your archived posts, use sites like http://www.socioclean.com/ that can help. These are great sites because they automatically detect anything that a professional adult would find inappropriate. If you don’t want to use a site like this, have your parents or a counselor look through everything. It’s great to have a backup in case they catch something you weren’t sure of or missed.