By Tracey Dowdy
Mercifully for my generation, most of our bad decisions in high school are lost to memory or stuffed in a shoe box of photos forgotten in a basement. Not so for our kids. Thanks to social media, bad decisions are more closely documented than the Korean War.
Many a social media account is littered with Red Solo cups, questionable comments or Tweets, and sketchy language. So what, they’re young. Not a big deal, right?
Not so fast. You might want to take a second look at your child’s social media presence if they’re applying for colleges or university, as more and more schools are looking at those profiles when they screen applicants. According to a study by Kaplan Test Prep, 40% of Admissions officers are scrolling through social media to see if what’s on the application matches what’s on the web.
Kids will be kids, right? Sure, but if your student is competing for placement or funding, those pictures of Spring Break 2015 could mean the difference between a scholarship and a student loan. Does that mean they have to take everything down? Not necessarily.
Help them see cleaning up social media as a transition from high school to adulthood. Part of the college experience is cultivating who you are, who you want to be, and how you want the world to perceive you. Some students shut it all down and come off social media entirely, while others choose anonymity and don’t use their real names to avoid negative attention. It’s entirely up to the individual what works best, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Used as a self-marketing tool, social media can be an asset for your student. Creative students can use platforms like Instagram to showcase their art or photography, writers can utilize blogs, and Facebook can document humanitarian or volunteer efforts.
Encourage your student to comb through their social media accounts and use these guidelines from Kaplan as a litmus test of what stays and what goes.
- Does this make me look like college material? It’s not just party photos or controversial statements; check your spelling and grammar. Little things weigh in the balance and can make a big difference.
- Would I say this on television? Would you say it to someone’s face? Ask yourself: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Social media gives a false sense of bravado and anonymity. Be mindful of what you say. Your social media is a mirror of your character.
- Does this post court excessive commenting? Are you trying to take a stand or are you just trying to stir the pot and be provocative? Taking a stand for what you think is right is important but realize your opinion may be polarizing. Be prepared to accept the consequences.
- Is it offensive? Following on the heels of “Is what you’ve posted controversial?” ask “Is it at the expense of others?” Understand sincerity doesn’t translate to high moral ground or to truth. Many people hold sincere beliefs but can still be sincerely wrong.
- Does everyone need to read this? Kaplan suggests that if the answer is “No,” don’t post it. Social media is littered with opinions, some good, some bad, some right, some wrong. If your goal is to present your best self to admissions and scholarship committees, cull your social media presence mercilessly. Use it as a platform to showcase your accomplishments and abilities to demonstrate why you are a superior candidate.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.