You can have a stellar GPA, extracurricular activities galore, speak a foreign language fluently and may give tons of time to charity, but find yourself rejected for admissions or denied a scholarship because of your social media shenanigans. Unless you’re Miley Cyrus or one of the Jenner/Kardashian clan that relies on controversial tweets and selfies to promote concert tours and product lines, you should not be acting out on any social media site.
According to a study by test prep giant Kaplan, 27% of admissions officers Google candidates and 26% check Facebook. When it comes to scholarship applications, there’s really no telling how high this percentage may be since there are so many sources of funds and an endless stream of people that weigh in on whether you’re worth the money. The bottom line is that your social media activity can absolutely cost you an acceptance to the school of your choice or a scholarship to help pay your way.
The less you have in scholarships, the more you may have to borrow, so your tweets and Instagrams can quite literally cost you tens of thousands of dollars over time. Youth in their mid-twenties and younger are a generation that share thoughts and images on social media constantly – many without filtering what they share. You may feel your right to self expression shouldn’t be censored and the whole First Amendment thing, etc., etc.
But the bottom line is that what you tweet, like and share can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion and if you are smart, you will censor yourself lest it cost you a college admission, scholarship and, eventually, career opportunities. Even high school yearbooks are now incorporating Twitter posts into their pages – that will see your tweets into perpetuity.
If you have social media accounts, you should get them cleaned up ASAP so they don’t cost you hits to your reputation that can ruin the rest of your life. Here are some things to consider:
#1 Keep the profile name appropriate
Your profile name on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even your email should not contain profanity, sexual innuendo, implications of drug use or alcohol abuse or your tendency to party. First and last name are safe. Don’t call yourself SexyKitten05 or HotStud15. Just don’t. This may impress someone you’re trying to get with, but will be a huge detractor to admissions.
#2 Be mindful of what images you post and pose for
Not only do you need to be careful about what images you share, but also what pics you allow to be taken of you that may get tagged on Facebook and viewed. Making out, hoisting red Solo cups, flipping people off and bikini selfies should be avoided. If you are caught on camera, ask that the images or video be deleted and confirm they are before they are posted and out of your control.
#3 Be conservative in what items you like and share
You may find a racist or homophobic cartoon hilarious, but sharing it on social media can make you look like an intolerant extremist. Sharing videos, images or posts of a sexual nature, that endorse drinking or drug abuse or anti-social behaviors should also be avoided. Colleges and scholarship providers want to know they are investing their time and money into serious students.
#4 Keep your opinions out of the fringes
Hot headed political extremism, intolerant religious views, condemnation of other races, religions or sexual orientations are all poor fodder for your social media accounts. It’s fine to debate with your friends, but posting way left or right-wing musings can cost you big.
#5 Be sure you keep as much as you can private
Adjust your privacy settings as high as possible on all social media accounts so that casual browsers cannot access your posts. Require approval before you can be followed and don’t share with contacts of contacts. But even if you restrict access, still don’t post willy nilly. Also, limit what other people can post to your pages, block photo tagging and delete anything inappropriate from friends that have posted on any of your social media walls.
#6 Go back and clean house on all accounts
Go back through all posts and clean them up and delete any that are questionable. Some social media accounts can be shut down and all posts deleted. If you don’t want to sift through, delete the account and start over. Facebook keeps old accounts archived, so you will have to clean that one up. Don’t try and use dummy accounts because they can be traced to you and make you look sneaky or dishonest.
#7 Stay safe by inviting your family over
One of the best ways to keep your social media G or PG rated and safe for admissions counselors, scholarship judges and future employers is to share with your family. If you aren’t comfortable posting something for your dad, grandma and favorite uncle to see, it probably shouldn’t be posted. Think of your social media walls as glass houses that anyone can see into and judge you at will.
#8 Google yourself and then clean up any messes
Check out what turns up on a Google search of your name. Anything that belongs to you and is inappropriate or questionable should be cleaned up. Anything that is not you but someone that shares your name is a concern. If you speak to admissions, you may want to qualify for them that there is someone with your name doing ill-advised things online but that it is absolutely not you.
This is serious stuff. NCAA athletes have lost scholarships over social media according to reports by the Chicago Tribune. Not only do they look at the content of posts, but the frequency of them and whether kids are posting in the wee hours of the morning. This looks like you’re not studying and are a constant partier. Why would a team, college or scholarship benefactor give you opportunities and/or money when there are kids that are less questionable ready to take your place?
And if you’re hoping to get into a highly competitive program like a military academy, ROTC scholarship or super-selective private school, your social media can be a make-or-break criteria. Consider using your social media profiles to highlight the good things you are doing – volunteer work, time with family and positive academic and social club activities from school.
If you do have to borrow to pay for school, sign up for Tuition.io’s free student loan tool from the get-go so you are always on top of your debt. You can check us out on social media as well – like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get the latest news on student loans and tips on dealing with your debt.