By Megan Shuffleton
As members of the infamous Millennial Generation, a lot of us are users of social media websites. And it’s not just Facebook anymore -– Twitter, Tumblr, Vine, Instagram and Foursquare are all big names in the social networking world now. While this means it’s easier for us to connect with friends, it also might mean sharing info with unknown users. And some of these aforementioned users could be the people holding your future in their hands: college admissions officers.
“It is always absolutely necessary that students are aware of the content they place online,” says Cindy Boyles Crawford, senior assistant director of admissions at the University of Georgia. Though not all colleges and universities take into account an applicant’s social media profiles, they do have the right to look. After all, it’s information on the Internet, and almost everyone can access it.
“Many scholarships, organizations and companies see social media as the ‘true view’ of a student’s character,” Crawford says. “One could easily be outstanding in an interview, then tarnish the image by an irresponsible post on their profile.”
Jacqueline Murphy, director of admission for the undergrad program at Saint Michael’s College, says that while admissions may not always look at your account, more narrowed organizations like athletic departments and financial aid offices might take a peek. “I know of at least a couple of occasions here where a student's application status was compromised by their social media presence when our athletic department did a little more investigation of transfer applicants and found some very damning information,” Murphy says. “Bottom line, you never know who will be looking for you... where and when.”
This uncertainty of who’s looking makes the relationship between social media and college application process even more unnerving. Though you may have cleaned up your profile to what your mom might think is appropriate, now you’ll need to clean your profile to what an admissions officer or an athletic recruiter or a scholarship coordinator would deem appropriate.
Here are a few tips for cleaning up your various social networking profiles! Be sure to go through all of them, since you likely have some linked accounts (e.g. Twitter and Instagram).
Facebook: Filter “What’s on Your Mind”
Settings, settings, settings! Your first step for cleaning up any social media profile should be clicking on that little gear button tucked away in the corner of the page. Privacy settings are especially important to pay attention to on Facebook, as there are so many options as to who sees what. You should be monitoring your privacy settings and changing who can see your wall, photos and likes; who can tag you in photos and who can look you up. Changing your privacy settings puts you in control of what your profile looks like to others.
Clean up your pictures. Some of us millennials have been on Facebook since middle school, so you probably consider your first few profile pics to be a dark corner of your profile. Well, it’s time to venture back there and delete anything embarrassing, irrelevant and especially inappropriate. After you’ve combed through your photos, your profile should end up free of any pictures with racial slurs, offensive language, inappropriate gestures or clothing and basically anything else you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see.
Look over your likes. Again, if you’ve had your account since middle school, you’re probably face-palming right now. Really, go to your page and check out your likes -– you’ll find the weirdest, most unnecessary pages. “B*tch Please, I’m a Teenager,” “I stare blankly into my locker when I’m trying to remember my homework,” “Telling your mom something you thought was funny and getting yelled at for it” and “I hate when I actually do my homework and the teacher doesn’t even collect it” aren’t exactly ways you want to present yourself to potential coaches, counselors and admissions officers –- not to mention, they can be kind of embarrassing. Take a minute to make sure you’ve only “liked” pages that are recent, relevant and appropriate.
Twitter: Think Before You Tweet
Your handle is essentially your name on Twitter. It’s your username, how people contact you and how users look you up. Therefore, it’s super important to have a clean and professional one. If you want people to know who you are, your handle should somewhat resemble your real name -– for example, you could do @firstnamelastname7, or maybe the initial of your first name and your full last name. Try to avoid inappropriate handles like @shitsarahsays867 or outdated, embarrassing names like @kraziprincess494.