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Creating an Admissions Appropriate Online Persona

The advent of technology certainly has made the college admissions process easier and more accessible to the nearly 2 million high school seniors who apply each year. But it has also made our lives so much more transparent and visible than ever before. And college admissions officers, trying to glean as much as they can about their candidates, have begun turning to the Internet to do so.

While many kids choose to turn off their social media accounts during the important admissions season, I would recommend letting admissions officers into your online lives a little bit more — but do so very carefully.

Most teenagers these days have Facebook accounts, Instagram accounts, and more and more are tweeting regularly. Some are even on LinkedIn hoping to get a jump start on their networking. And while teens typically look to social media for staying connected and keeping up, it can also be a huge opportunity to show admissions officers what you do in your free time.

So follow these steps for creating an admissions appropriate online persona:

• Privatize whatever you don’t want admissions officers to see, whether pictures or posts. While you cannot control what others post, you can control what others see. You should become familiar with the different privacy settings and test them out as soon as possible. If there are pictures up that you definitely don’t want viewed by admissions officers, or anyone, kindly ask the people who posted them to remove them. If your online self simply does not show you in a positive light and no amount of fidgeting with settings will change that, then block anyone you don’t know from seeing your information. But you should also then think about what you post going forward. These sites are not going anywhere and admissions officers and even employers will be checking them out in their decision making process.

• Watch the language. Whether you are tweeting, writing wall posts or making comments, be aware of your language. Definitely no cursing allowed. Write intelligently and thoughtfully. Don’t write anything you would not want your mother to see. Don’t write something that you wouldn’t say in person – just because you have the mask of your social profile, make sure whatever you are saying is something you would be comfortable saying in-person. 

Do damage control. Go through your online profiles for the last two years. If you are unsure about something that is posted, delete it. Err on the side of being too cautious. While admissions officers will not spend hours digging through your profiles, you only have one opportunity to make a first impression, so make sure that any click one would make on your profiles would lead to something interesting and positive.

Post about the positive things in your life! If you had an amazing debate round, or really connected with someone you volunteered with, or had a really amazing volleyball match, feel free to post. If you philosophically disagree with a theory you are learning in economics, are excited about spending the holidays with your favorite cousins, or are counting down the days until the next school dance, feel free to post.

Be yourself and post about things that are important to you. Doing so will let admissions officers learn more about what you think about in your spare time and how you interact with others. If you love to blog about current events, make those blogs public. If you watch all the new movies and immediately write reviews, make those reviews available. You can still be a teenager. You certainly should not try to be someone you are not. Rather, this is an opportunity to highlight what you want others to see — exactly what you are trying to do in your college applications.

Social media makes it easier for people to see what you don’t want them to see, but it can also be a great opportunity to give others a glimpse into who you are. Rather than wasting that chance, make the most of it by making the most of all that technology has to offer.

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