Preparing for College

Who's Watching You Online?

Over the years, I've written about the perils of young people (high schoolers and college students) being careless about what they post on the Internet about themselves. This applies mainly to the wonderful world of social media, Facebook, mainly. In a recent post, I noted, "I call Facebook The Home of Dirty Laundry. I do that with good reason. Facebook seems to satisfy people’s desire to reveal far more about themselves than they would in person, among a group of friends or even strangers. The element of increased freedom, I think, comes from a false sense of security about the Internet, which is a big mistake in my view."

That post, which I made here on Admit This! three weeks ago, inspired several responses from others in the online community who not only agreed with me but also provided some interesting insights and statistics about the perils of Exposing Yourself Online, as my post was titled. One fairly amazing statistic that came in notes that 69% of companies have chosen not to hire based on something found on a social networking site, and 38% of college admissions officers say social media has negatively impacted a student’s admission decision. Those stats should give all you Facebookers out there pause to consider the nature of your online exposures.


I followed up on one the responses I got from Exposing Yourself Online and asked for some additional information for my Admit This! readers. Michael Grace, CEO and President of Virallock, was kind enough to send me a detailed explanation of what's behind that stat I mentioned above: 69% of companies have chosen not to hire based on something found on a social networking site, and 38% of college admissions officers say social media has negatively impacted a student’s admission decision. With his permission, I'd like to cite some very helpful information from his article.

According to a recent study, “38% of college admissions officers say social media has negatively impacted a student’s admission decision.”

With the steady proliferation of social media, colleges now take advantage of the mass of information available online to assess the character of potential students.  They review photographs, comments, tweets and associated groups, as well as identified religious and political views to help determine whether or not the student represents a positive match for the school.

The online image of college applicants extends beyond the individual profiles of the student.  The universities place their own reputations at stake through their affiliation with admitted students.  As a result, they examine a potential student’s social media profiles to avoid admitting someone who posts damaging and negative remarks about the school.  An applicant who posts on their Facebook about “XXX University’s wild dorm parties” could lead to bad press or even legal implications for issues related to underage drinking upon admission.  These types of statements represent a school-based liability despite their placement on personal profiles.

The hours teenagers spend making their college applications flawless, polished and well written overwhelmingly exceed the amount they spend refining their social media platforms.  Equal in importance to the physical application, an online profile serves as a resume for college admissions officers to use in the decision process.

As new social media platforms are introduced to the world, it becomes more challenging for young people to manage and protect their online reputation through their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social media accounts.  Deciphering the good content from the bad and trying to monitor all of one’s social media accounts poses a significant challenge for today’s youth.

Companies like Virallock, for instance, offer services to help teens with these struggles [and] provide recommendations on improving online reputations and actively scan all linked social media 24/7 in order to alert users immediately about questionable content.  Resources such as these ensure that a teen’s viral footprint matches their academic and professional goals.

In the meantime, follow these tips on how to protect your viral footprint:

- Delete incriminating photos, posts and tweets related to alcohol/drugs, sexual references and other inappropriate activities.

- Unsubscribe from groups that present biased information and/or appear bigoted.

- Avoid using profanity on any public profile.

- Keep your privacy settings up-to-date.

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These tips may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised how many people don't think before they act and put themselves "out there" for all to see. Don't be one of them.

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.