Should I Post This Online?

Social media is a great way for us to stay connected with others. It allows us to know what is going on with family and friends when we cannot be with them. And, it lets us share anything we want with our followers. However, your friends and families might not be the only ones who are watching what you are doing online. Some colleges, scholarship providers, and hiring managers are using social medial to learn more about their applicants before making decisions.

Kaplan Test Prep shared survey results about social media and college admission earlier this year. They surveyed over 350 college admission officers and found that 35% visit applicants’ social media pages. As someone who reviewed social media profiles as an admission officer, scholarship committee member, and a hiring manager, it can happen. 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
  • Curiosity
  • Alerted by someone about inappropriate behavior on social media

Admission 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 will let them know. Once any decision maker, including an admission 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:

  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Drugs
  • Sex
  • Bad mouthing something/someone
  • Cursing
  • Violence

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 admission, scholarships, or hiring decisions. Therefore, to be safe, make sure you are presenting your best self online.

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2 Comments on “Should I Post This Online?

  1. Great advice, Jessica. I heard the admissions officer of NYU state that he does sometimes check out an applicant’s social media particularly if invited to do so, or if the student has unusual accomplishments. Students can use this to their advantage by thinking ahead and cultivated an online presence that highlights their talents and strengths.

    • You are very right! You can use social media to your advantage as well. When I was an admission professional, I would look at social media to confirm information. Sometimes I would be so impressed I would invite the student to apply for special scholarship opportunities or to work in my office as a tour guide.

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