In August 2016, The Social U finished conducting an online survey of college admissions officers regarding how (and if) they use social media during the admissions process. One of the most interesting things to come out of that survey was a list of “red flag” issues that if seen, lead college admissions officers to question a candidate’s character.
- Symbols of Violence or Displays of Prejudice or Discrimination
- Partying, Alcohol or Drugs
- Negative Comments about School
- Nudity or Partial Nudity
Be thoughtful and try to view your words or images through the lenses of others who don’t know you in real life.
Students must recognize that even though they may not view something as a symbol of violence (like the image of a gun), others might. Before posting, consider trying to take a look at your post as if you are behind a variety of lenses: How would someone in a different part of the country view your post? How would someone with different political opinions view your post? How would someone who has experienced negative outcomes due to something contained in your post view your post? How would someone older or younger or from a different religion or race view your post?
What we often forget is that for better or worse, we are often judged based on what we post and all that content becomes a part of our “personal brand”.
The Fix: Be thoughtful and try to view your words or images through the lenses of others who don’t know you in real life and most likely will never contact you to ask you what you really meant by the post.
Recognize that no one will ever call you to ask if the beer bottles behind you in the photo are yours or not.
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. When you post about partying or images of yourself partying, it can lead adult decision-makers to question your character and judgment especially if you’re underage. Even a photo in your kitchen with beer bottles in the background that are sitting out from your parents’ party the evening before could get you into trouble. When someone sees a photo you’ve posted, they don’t have any context from which to draw conclusions. In this case, they might assume those beer bottles were yours.
The Fix: When it comes to posting party pictures, don’t post any photo you take while you’re at the party. Instead, wait until the light of day to view them and make responsible decisions about what’s smart/not smart to post. Once again, think about the lenses through which others will view your posts and recognize that no one will ever call you to ask if the beer bottles behind you in the photo are yours or not.
When you post negatively about your school, it can reflect negatively upon your character.
Every student at one time or another has been unhappy as a result of something that happened at school. Maybe it’s a teacher you don’t see eye-to-eye with or maybe it’s a school or class policy you don’t agree with. When you post negatively about your school, it can reflect negatively upon your character. Schools (secondary and colleges alike) have employees whose job it is to note every time their school is mentioned online.
The Fix: When it comes to posting negatively about school, if you don’t have something nice to say, it’s better to say nothing at all.
If grandma or grandpa wouldn’t like the photo, then an adult judging your character online won’t either.
Everyone likes to post pics of themselves on vacation and while there’s nothing wrong with sharing those good memories online, it’s important to recognize that not all pictures should make the cut. Before you post pics of yourself and your friends from your spring break trip, look at the angles in the photograph as well as the expressions on everyone’s faces.
The Fix: The angle of the photo of a girl on the beach or the pout on her face may cause the image to appear sexualized even if that wasn’t the subject’s or poster’s intention. A good rule of thumb: if grandma or grandpa wouldn’t like the photo, then an adult judging your character online won’t either.
Be thoughtful about the words you use online.
Every adult knows that teens and college students swear online and it’s likely that most college admissions officers wouldn’t be too offended by it. That number goes up, however, if your social media pages are filled with profanity.
The Fix: Be thoughtful about the words you use online and make sure that before it’s time to apply to college or for a job, you scan your posts and edit out the profanity or foul language you used in the past.
Avoid Missed Opportunities
While it’s true that not every college admissions officer looks at the social media of every application that crosses their desk, you can never know who will look and who won’t. Avoid missed opportunities by keeping your online persona in tip-top shape. You want to be your authentic self online, but you also need to view each of your posts through a variety of lenses before hitting send. Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to a social media presence that you can be proud of.
Do you have a golden rule for posting online that you follow in order to stay out of social media trouble? Sound off in the comments below.
About our guest blogger:
Julie Fisher founded The Social U to give students and their families the tools, insights, and expertise they need to manage their online presence and prepare for the rigors of the college admissions process. Connect with her on LinkedIn. Learn more about Guest Blogging for SafeSmartSocial.com