If you are ready to go to college and get that degree you have always wanted, you may want to take a hard look at who you are online. Regardless of how impressive your GPA, letters of recommendation, application, and leadership experience is, your activity on Facebook and other social media outlets can kill your chances of getting in to the college you want to attend. A recent study by Kaplan Test Prep shows that your online presence may shut college doors in your face faster than you though possible.
The Trend in Investigating Social Media
Kaplan’s survey asked 350 admissions officers from the top 500 colleges and universities in the country if they check the social media of applicants. While not all admissions officers delve into an applicant’s online presence, the number is definitely growing. Of those participating in the survey, 27% admitted to searching through an applicant’s social media and 35% found material that influenced them to reject an application for admission.
Social media sources showed that some applicants were guilty of plagiarism, underage drinking, and other illegal activities. Other applicants were simply guilty of vulgar language and activities or those that showed attitudes and thinking that made them less-than-ideal candidates for college admission. Since young people seem to be losing a sense of propriety and privacy due the ease with which they can share personal information, this is sure to be a trend that will continue to grow.
How to Do Damage Control
Since doing a social media check is becoming increasing popular among potential employers as well as college admissions offices, the slightest mistake in your online activities can derail your future plans and your chance of success. As such, you need to take immediate steps to make sure your online reputation is clean and professional and that all detrimental material is removed. Follow this plan to restore your online image to a pristine condition.
Take an Honest Look
The first thing you need to do is to search for yourself on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other searches. Look carefully through the first several pages for results. If you see anything that may make you look bad to others, make note of it. Sign up for all alerts so you can be notified when new information about you is added. Keep in mind that online activity doesn’t have to be outrageous to harm your image. It simply has to raise a small doubt about your character.
Take Out the Trash
Delete all the negative information you can. If you find negative material about yourself on another site, politely ask that it be removed. Of course, you must remember that most of what goes online is archived at the Internet Archive so it never truly goes away. At this point, you have to realize that there may be some things you can’t get rid of.
Bury Bad Information
If there is something in your past activities that you cannot get rid of, you can still bury it. Make sure to add enough new positive information so that your past misdeeds will be impossible to find. You cannot do this by simply adding copious amounts of random information. Instead, actively seek to accomplish positive things and add plenty of information about your talents, accomplishments, community work, and other things that will make you appealing.
Get Professional Help
If cleaning up your reputation is too much for you to handle alone, consider hiring the services of a professional. There are many great services that can help you clean up, monitor, and manage your online reputation, but they aren’t cheap. This should be a last resort for those who have an overwhelmingly bad online rep. if you find that you do need help, check out services such as Reputation.com or Defendmyname. These services use a host of strategies to fix your reputation and to make sure positive information ranks high in search engine results.