Application done! Time to review your online profile

If you have a teen applying for college, the New York Times article, “They loved your GPA then they saw your tweets”, may invoke a silent scream. The article highlights the growing trend of admission officers looking at college applicants social media profiles. It shares how inappropriate tweets and posts may influence a college’s decision.

The article references a Kaplan Test Prep study which found 31% of admission officers have checked an applicant’s online profile. This is an increase from 26% in 2012. Although this number is increasing, most applicants will not have their social media profiles checked. Colleges receive too many applications to review every applicant’s online profile. According the New York Time’s article, admission officers are more likely to go online if they receive information about a student’s profile or they want to learn more about an award/project mentioned in the application. 

The good news is out of the applications reviewed only 30% found something that negatively impacted admission. This is down from 35% in 2012. “Many students are becoming more cautious about what they post, and also savvier about strengthening privacy settings and circumventing search,” said Christine Brown, Executive Director of College Admissions programs, Kaplan’s student survey showed that 22% had changed their searchable names on social media, 26% had untagged themselves from photos, and 12% had deleted their social media profiles altogether.

Even though an admission officer is unlikely to check out your teen’s profile, it is still a good idea to review it. Other people may search their name such as a scholarship committee. You never know, their new roommate or the cute student in their class may check them out online. They should spend some time senior year giving their teenage digital profile a makeover.

Here are 5 steps for a digital profile makeover:

  1. Search real name & email addresses. Teens need to figure out what information is public and easily accessible. They should look most carefully at the social networks that appear on the first page of search results usually Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  2. Remove or untag questionable posts/pictures. They should look at their profiles as if someone they have never met is reading it. This someone is not going to understand the inside jokes or assume it is just water in the plastic cup.
  3. Change public networks to private. If they do not want everyone seeing their posts and photos, they should change their privacy settings. On some social networks (Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Pheed), they can switch their profile from public to private. Now, only approved subscribers can see their posts and pictures. Remember, on some networks profile photos are always public.
  4. Deactivate networks.  Learn from the MySpace generation and avoid the curse of the forgotten teenage profile. Teenage MySpace pages, abandoned in 2006, still pop up in search results. Young adults have forgotten their passwords and old email addresses so these profiles are almost impossible to delete. If they are not using a network, teens should delete it now before they forget how.
  5. Create or promote positive content. The goal is not to remove all information. Make sure people can find posts and pictures that highlight a teen’s interests and talents. Their online profile should match the awesome person they are in real life.

For more information on reputation management, check out: