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Suniti's Advice Corner

Social Media: An extension of Your College Applications

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Wed, Aug 28, 2013

A Guest Blog By: Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed.

Founder of CollegeMapper.com

social media resized 600You are linked in, connected and wired, but are you really safe from prying eyes?  In the world of college admissions, this is something you should think about rather seriously. Each year there are more and more stories of colleges searching for applicants on the Internet, just to see what they can find.  If they are on the fence between two applicants, and they find some social media--like a picture or a tweet--of one of the applicants flipping off the camera or smiling and holding a can of spray paint, they'll probably go with the other applicant.  Who wouldn't?  In this day and age of privacy settings and ever-better technology, how can you really know what people can and cannot find about you?  Google yourself sometime, and see what comes up, but in the meantime, here are some great principles that you can apply to your daily life to keep yourself safe.

 1. Colleges are not your friends, so they won't get your jokes

Be careful with thinking that just because it was so funny when it happened, everyone will get it.  Inside jokes are only funny to the people who were there, and pictures (like your Halloween costume on Instagram) are very open to bad interpretations.  When people don't know you, they have to try to make an impression of you, and "you only get once chance to make a first impression", so make it a great one.

 2.  Be cyber professional

Think about your professional image.  I know it may seem early, but real life starts now.  Will colleges take you seriously if your email address is sexybeachbabe22@gmail.com?  Would an employer want to hire you if your Twitter handle was @PartyOnDude?  Try to think beyond making your friends laugh, and always think about how something will look in two months or two years.  I recommend a straight-up, boring email address--like your name.  That's never wrong (unless your parents have a bad sense of humor).  Jokes are best kept between you and your friends.  Just as you select your clothes each day as a reflection of your personal style, every time you post on social media, you are selecting parts of your professional image. You want to go far in life, right?  Well then, keep it classy! 

 3.  If you wouldn't want your grandma to see it, don't post it

The Grandma Test is always a winner, and you can use this to help you out in a lot of situations, forever.  If you wouldn't show it to her, then don't post it.  If you wouldn't want her to see you doing it, then skip it.  If you wouldn't repeat it to her, don't say it or tweet it. Proper is always in style, your Grandma will be proud, and I guarantee you, the other kids will look up to you.  Everyone loves a role model. 

 4.  Watch your profile pictures  

These are often searchable, and your Facebook wallpaper comes up no matter how strict your privacy settings are. Make sure the images you choose are images you wouldn't mind a college admissions officer seeing.  And to help you out, always imagine it's your dream school that stumbles upon the pic. (Just because you un-tag yourself, that picture is still out there, online...)  I'm not suggesting you post photos of yourself knitting and using your library card, but do think first, young Skywalker.

 5.  You are the company you keep online

Who do you like?  Who do you follow?  What hobbies are you into?  What do you read?  What do you hashtag? #Thinkaboutit. How would all of your interests look to a college, to a potential employer, or to the father of a girl you'd like to ask out?  Think from somebody else's perspective.  My great Grandma always said, "Birds of a feather flock together", so choose your flock with care because you become like them. Even your fave foods and bands become a part of your online image.    

 It's a high tech world these days, kids, and college admissions has joined the party, literally.  Your professional image is an extension of your college application, and while you might want to stay a blissfully innocent child for a little longer, the truth is, your professional image is real, and it starts now.  As you get ready to apply to college, think about your social media presence, make wise choices, and in all things, protect your dreams!  

About Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed. and CollegeMapper

Susanna Cerasuolo resized 600Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed is a college counselor based in Seattle, WA.  She has been working with high school students for 20 years, first as an English teacher and then as a guidance counselor.  As a first generation college graduate, Susanna believes that education is the best way to break the poverty cycle and she is passionate about increasing access to higher ed. Susanna founded www.CollegeMapper.com, a free website that gives each high school student a step-by-step plan to find and apply to college.  

Image Source:Top image from gooddata.com; Bottom image from College Mapper

Tags: For Students, For Parents

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