As social media circles grow, universities are developing their presence on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. This is a double-edged sword, because just as students can find information about universities–everything from course reviews to university ‘confessions’ pages–admissions officers can also check up on prospective students. Admissions officers won’t care about your high score on Candy Crush as much as they will care about underage drinking, drugs and vulgarity.
In an attempt to subvert admissions officers, many high school seniors have started changing their ‘Facebook name’. (This of course doesn't work so well when you use the same email address or phone number for everything.) To clean up your digital footprint it is a good idea to remove any photos that involve alcohol (legal or otherwise), parties, drugs, vulgar gestures, and any photos where you are inebriated or around such people. Unfollow any pages and un-like any groups that promote racist, sexist and negative behavior. Remember to not post such stuff on Instagram, Vine, and all the other platforms you frequent. You can also limit your profile searchability, making yourself unsearchable unless someone has your email address or mutual friends. The same thing can be done on Twitter by protecting your tweets. Increasing privacy settings helps you limit and control what strangers can see of your profile. Another good idea is to Google yourself regularly to see what digital dirty laundry needs to be removed.
For college-applicants, erasing negative content is, of course, the primary concern. Beyond that, some students have even turned the tables and used social media to boost their applications. You can use social media to show your dedication to certain causes. If you’re an aspiring artist or YouTube star, you can use such platforms to showcase your many talents. Then again, you can follow the path of Bernie Zak who claims that his twitter campaign #acceptbernieucla (of a fact a day of why UCLA should accept him) helped him get into UCLA.
Regardless of the content, many parents, students and even universities find this snooping intrusive and unreasonable, citing both privacy concerns and potential prejudice based on race, gender, sexuality and other personal information. Some universities have even adopted policies restricting admissions officers from overzealous ‘stalking’ of potential freshman or even checking on the applicant’s online presence. Other universities argue that this is public information and this helps in maintaining the calibre and quality of students accepted. Either way, it is a good idea for students to remember this rule of thumb before posting anything online, would you be willing to share that with an admissions officer or potential employer?