Apparently, our worst nightmares have come true. Colleges admissions and financial aid officers have figured out how to dig into our Facebook profiles and use what they find (for better or worse)--at least that's the story in California. And it probably won't take long for administrators across the country to follow their lead.
But fear not collegiate hopefuls! While you may not be able to permanently erase the digital record, you can certainly make your profile presentable for prospective colleges. All it takes is a little editing and updating, and, voila, your Facebook (or myspace) identity will be ready for fall football games and freshman English (and maybe even a generous financial aid package...)
Here's what you do:
Polish your profile pic: You don't want to go too obvious with this one and choose something formal or staged ("look at me! I'm accomplished!"). But you also want to steer clear of that photo from last Friday night when you and your friends went on a sugar-bender and got goofy with silly string. The perfect photo would reveal your personality or interests, like one of you enjoying a wholesome activity, like waterskiing, or volleyball--you know, those extra-curriculars you listed on your app.
Name your favorite books: First things first--do not leave this section blank. And be sure that space isn't filled with something like, "I don't read books, they're for nerds and people without social lives." While they may not be your favorite cultural medium, you should at least have something listed. But like your profile pic, the key is keeping away from the obvious. So a list like: War and Peace, everything ever written by Shakespeare, the Illiad, the Odyssey, Crime and Punishment, For Whom the Bell Tolls...and on and on, will scream, "I'M MAKING THIS UP!" Chose a few favorites from the high school cannon--1984, The Great Gatsby--and add a few personal touches, like a childhood favorite (our personal fav is The Giving Tree).
Sanitize your status stream: While it may seem excessive to comb through all your status updates, just think about how embarrassed you'd be if someone from your dream school found that one from the morning after the SAT's when your wrote, "F-that: stupidest test ever! any college that gives a hoot about scores is L-A-M-E." Yeah, not cool. Delete all such evidence and limit new updates to grammatically correct and bland fare like, "Going for a run. Who would like to join me?" Or, "Cleaning my room. I just found my fifth grade science project. I loved the solar system!"
Pretty up the photos: This is the stickiest area, cause you can't really get rid of the incriminating, er, less-than-desirable photos posted by your friends. But you can remove your name if you're tagged (of course, only to have your friends re-tag it a minute later). And you can certainly remove photos that you've posted. Keep it simple: leave albums from events, like family vacations (NOT spring break) and that weekend you volunteered with the local shelter. Anything questionable--like that harmless but possibly misleading pic of you tackling your sibling--should go. Better safe than penniless without financial aid!
Have you prepped your profile for college admin snoops? What did you leave or take out? Anything important we left out?