Adjusting your online presence is a serious project that can actually affect your odds of acceptance at many US colleges and universities.
From the party pictures on your Facebook profile to your informal email address, there are plenty of small details included in your online presence that curious admissions committees may examine.
Don’t ruin your chances of admission or your odds at getting a scholarship because you forgot to make your online presence admissions-counselor friendly! Some quick tips on how to avoid the most common faux pas can help you clean up your online presence before those US college applications go out!
1. Professionalize Your Email
Your groupie-style email address, email@example.com, might help your application to the Justin Bieber super-fan club, but it will not help your college application. If you don’t already, make sure you have a professional email address — something basic that comprises parts of your name. I also recommend a more “adult” server and not, for example, a high school or old internship email address.
Choose something basic that you can use well past college — firstname.lastname@example.org is a good template to follow.
2. Delete Incriminating Photos
Think of all the places that you — or your friends — may have posted pictures of you online. Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… there are a lot of options. Be sure to check all these various social networking sites and delete any photos that are too unprofessional (for example, party photos).
If a pic is really not application-friendly, don’t just untag yourself — make sure it’s permanently deleted. This might mean contacting your friends to have them take their photos of you down, but it’s worth the effort!
3. Adjust Your Privacy Settings
Another way to keep curious US college admissions officers from diving too deep into your online presence is to simply adjust the privacy settings for your social networking accounts.
Make sure only your friends can see your Facebook profile (and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know). You can even change the settings so that people can’t search for you on Facebook, or so that your profile does not show up in general search engine results.
4. Delete Your Angst-y Blog
Blogs are a great way to vent — but if you spend every afternoon in high school coming home and writing about how much you hate school and your teachers, that blog is not going to go over well with admissions committees!
Make sure you delete any unprofessional blogs or blog posts. Another option is to simply anonymize your blog, so that your real name or information doesn’t appear anywhere on it and hint at your real identity.
5. Align Your Online Presence with Your Resume
Look, if you fudged some dates or titles on the resume or CV that you had to submit with your college application — we don’t approve! — that’s your (unwise) choice. Have a LinkedIn profile? An old bio on a website for a former internship? Any information about you — your duties, the dates you worked, your job title — better line up with whatever you submit to US college admissions committees.
6. Create a Search-Worthy Presence
If an admissions committee (or future employer) looks you up online, it would be great for them to see something you actually want them to see. There are a lot of ways to show off your talents and passions.
Are you a writer? Make a blog! Photographers and art students can showcase their work on Instagram and Tumblr, and graphic or web designers can create whole websites showing what they can do.
If you’re not a creative type, you can still use social media in a professional way. You can create a LinkedIn profile that showcases your accomplishments, and use Twitter to talk about your professional interests (e.g., show your interest in international relations by retweeting that AP article). These days, it’s not even uncommon to reach out and engage with your school of choice via social media.
The Final Word: Google Yourself
When adjusting your online presence in preparation for the US college application season, one of the easiest ways to find out what incriminating things you may have floating around on the internet is to Google yourself. This is probably the same tactic that any admissions officer would use. See what comes up in the first few pages. You should still take the precautions listed above, but this can be a useful first step in figuring out where to start when adjusting your online presence before college.