For many of us, we see social media as a way to stay connected with others. There are other ways people and organizations use social media that we may not think about when we post – they use it to help them make decisions. Some colleges, scholarship providers, and hiring managers are using social media to learn more about their applicants before making decisions. Therefore, it is very important to think before posting anything on social media.
Kaplan Test Prep recently published survey results about social media and college admissions. They surveyed approximately 400 college admissions officers and found that 40% visit applicant’s social media pages. Sometimes these surveys are hard to believe, but I’ll give you one example of someone who used social media to sometimes make decisions – me! I have served in different capacities on college campuses (admissions officer, scholarship committee member, hiring manager) and in each capacity I occasionally used social media to make a final decision.
Below are some of the reasons decision makers may be looking at your social media posts:
- Social media accounts can distinguish applicants, especially at competitive colleges
- Identify and recruit talented students
- College has strict community living standards (no drinking, smoking, etc) and view social media to ensure students do not partake in these behaviors
- Colleges want students who fit the college image in regards to how they carry themselves publicly
- Alerted by someone about inappropriate behavior on social media
Admissions officers are typically very busy and cannot view every applicant’s social media posts. However, the main reason I started viewing more and more social media profiles was because someone told me I needed to see something. During my time on college campuses, I had parents, current students, applicants, and professors alert me to things on social media about applicants’ questionable behavior online. Therefore, if admission officers are not actively seeking out information about their applicants online, someone else might see something and let them know. Once any decision maker, including an admissions officer, sees something inappropriate online, they cannot un-see it and it could come into play when decisions are being made.
As you start to review your social media accounts, ask yourself, “Do I want _______________ seeing this?” Frequently it is called the “Grandma test,” but maybe there is someone else you want to use as your moral compass. It could be your mom, dad, pastor, future employer, etc. Whoever it is, keep asking yourself that question as you review your profiles and posts. If there is something that doesn’t pass the test, don’t post it or delete the post. This also goes for photos that you have posted, as well as tagged photos.
In addition to reviewing your social media profiles you use regularly, Google yourself and see what comes up. Is there a social media profile you forgot you even had? Did someone tag you in a photo you did not even know was online? It’s always good to Google yourself on a regular basis to see what you find. If you have a common name, search your name along with things like your city, high school, activity, etc.
To be safe, avoid the following topics/photos on social media:
- Bad mouthing something/someone
While the chance an admissions officer will see your social media is small, the chance is there. Scholarship providers and hiring managers may also be searching for you before they make their final decision. Your online identity can play a part in admissions, scholarships, or hiring decisions. Therefore, to be safe, make sure you are presenting your best self online.