Attention high school juniors and seniors!!! August is here, and that means it’s time to start cleaning up your profile, page, website, blog, etc. Why? Because in terms of admissions, these sites and pages might as well be application material deliberately submitted to your top 5 choices.
According to USA Today, 41% of colleges admit to using social networking sites when reviewing applications. Forty-one percent. That means if you apply to 6 schools (that's the average number 2009 graduates applied to this year), at least two of them read your favorite quotes, saw your Snow Dance pictures, and know you were "sooooooo bored" on August 8.
Although peering at applicants' status updates and pictures seems conniving, deceitful, and downright CIA-like, if your profile is public, well, there's no reason admissions counselors shouldn't look at it. And colleges aren't just trying to be nosy. As the director of the Center for Marketing Research at the UMass Dartmouth, Nora Ganim Barnes, says, "'Colleges and universities are not trying to be punitive. They're trying to protect themselves...No school wants to give out a prestigious scholarship and then find a picture with a (recipient) with a lamp on the head.'"
Wondering how counselors figure out which Joe Baker profile matches the Joe Baker who applies to their school? It's easy.
Your application provides your email address, home mailing address, usually two or more phone numbers, your social security number, your high school and its mailing address, and several activities you're involved in. Even the least tech-savvy admissions counselor has no problem matching Joe the applicant to Joe the guy who posted all those pictures of himself puking in his friend's basement.
What you should do:
1. Take down (and de-tag, but deleting is best) all but the most innocent pics of yourself. Get rid of the smoking, drinking, bikini-wearing, and generally misbehaving pics. Yes, the photo album documenting the night you and your friends stole road signs is hilarious. But are the laughs worth that $40,000 scholarship that will save you 10 years of loans?
2. Make your profile private. Protect your tweets. And on Facebook, go to Settings-->Privacy-->Profile and select "only friends" for each option. And (duhhh) do NOT friend your admission counselors!
3. Choose your words carefully. Be conscious of word choice and comments on your profile. Try to imagine you’re writing that seemingly innocent phrase in large, red, bold print on the “Welcome to ___ College!” sign at the entrance to your dream college. Does it still look innocent?
How are you cleaning up your profiles and accounts as you start the college search process? Do any of your updates/photos/tweets have you nervous? Did you accidentally friend the Dean of Admissions at the college you just visited?