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The 12 Most Critical Reasons Students Need a Clean Online Presence

Do college-bound scholarship searching students need a clean online presence? ABSOLUTELY!

The 12 Most Critical Reasons Students Need a Clean Online Presence

On June 5, Harvard University rescinded admissions offers to at least ten students.

Why? They posted offensive messages and pictures via social media. 

Do students need a clean online presence? YES!

Twitter (X), Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram…and more. So many social media sites, so little time! Actually, in this crazy-busy world that we live in, people are finding time to spend on these sites and, as a result, are creating an online presence for themselves.

What many students don’t realize is that every time they post online, they are creating an impression of themselves that NEVER goes away. Here are the 12 most critical reasons students need a clean online presence:

1. Admissions officers admit to reading posts and tweets
I’m very active on Twitter (X) and have personally gotten tweets from college admissions officers stating that they read the tweets of prospective students to get a better feel for the type of person that student is. Tweeting, “Got wasted last night and it was awesome!” will NOT impress anyone, especially that admissions officer who needs to make an enrollment decision between a few qualified students.

2. Anyone can see Pinterest pins
If you search for “Financial Aid” on Pinterest you can easily find students with boards filled with beautiful pictures of clothing, accessories, shoes, and other How to Use Pinterest to Find College Scholarshipsspecial things that they will supposedly buy with their college financial aid money. Where are the pictures of college textbooks and great shots of the university? Anyone in the position of offering those students money for school would have to wonder if another student might use the money as it was intended, instead of on extra non-school based luxuries.

3. Tweeting scholarship hopes and curses
It is seen every single day on Twitter (X), “I’d better win this F____ college scholarship!” It’s also been revealed that scholarship judges sometimes read the tweets and profiles of prospective winners, especially if they need to make the difficult choice between two highly qualified applicants. Using Twitter (X) to tweet about how hard you worked on a scholarship application or essay and how excited you are to attend college would be a much better way to leave a positive impression on any judge (or admissions rep) who might be reading your tweets.

4. Facebook picture tagging might be a tad too revealing
Did you know that you don’t even have to be friends with someone in order to tag them in a Facebook photo? This means that someone who doesn’t know you can still tag you. Make sure your security settings are such that NO tagging is allowed. You never know what strangers, or even your own Facebook friends, will think is funny and by tagging you, contribute negatively to your online presence.

5. Your social media “friends” might not even be friendly
The term “friends” has changed with the social media revolution. Think about it, will any of your online “friends” lend you money, help you when your car breaks down, or visit you when you are sick? Hopefully, most of them will, but many students are quick to accept friend requests from people they have “met” only once or in an online chat room. This means that these “friends” don’t really know you and may not think twice about posting something about you that is a rumor or completely untrue. Be careful about mixing up the meaning of friends vs. acquaintances.

6. Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the paper
Any online post, comment, picture, or tweet is out there for the world to see, so why risk your online reputation by posting something that may come back to haunt you? Use your social media presence in a positive way by posting about volunteer experiences, how hard you work in school, and other facts that you want to share that are true, uplifting, and make you likable.

Be sure to read Using Social Media to Win College Scholarships.

STUDENTS, YOU NEED A CLEAN ONLINE PRESENCE. Are you getting the picture now?

7. Always use the Grandma Test
Before hitting that comment or send button, think, “Would it be ok for my Grandma to read this and know that it was me who wrote it?” If not, don’t post it! Any kernel of doubt that you have about what you are posting will shine through using this Grandma test. Use your online presence to impress and not to degrade others. Don’t use language that would make Grandma cringe, or tell lies that will come full circle and make you wish you had never posted.

8. The delete button is only two-dimensional
You may think that by clicking “delete” your words might be gone, but that simply isn’t true. No matter how quickly you click it, someone could have read what you wrote, copied your words, and pasted them somewhere else. Once out there in cyber-space, it’s always out there. Read: The delete button is NOT a sure thing!

9. Your future employer is out there…somewhere
Students can use social media to their advantage by making connections that may one day result in their first job or internship. By contributing to online forums and discussions relating to their chosen career fields, what they say or do can easily get noticed by employers looking for good quality employees. On the flip-side, internship and/or career offers can easily be rescinded if an employer checks the social media presence of any potential employee and does not like what is found.

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10. What you say on social media sites should reflect the REAL you
If you won’t say it face to face, don’t type it, post it, snap it, or tweet it. You are YOU, no matter how much you may desire to be someone else. The internet is a wonderful way to gain knowledge and make connections. Find positive people and learn from them!

11. What you do now will pay off later
The 8th grader posting on Facebook may not be worried about college admissions officers, future employers, or scholarship judges. That’s where parents need to come in and teach awareness of how social media can affect the futures of their children. Starting from the very first email or post, students need to understand the power of social media and the internet. Students need a clean online presence and the earlier they understand why, the better.

12. Go Google yourself
Keeping tabs on what is already out there about you is easy. Set up a “Google Alert” for your name. This tells Google to send you an email whenever your name comes up in their search results. Use quotes around your name (“Monica Matthews”) to cut down on the number of results you will get sent. You can set up Google Alerts for any search query that you want and this service is free. Get going, go Google yourself!

Building and keeping a clean and positive online presence is becoming more and more important for students as they apply for scholarships, college, internships, and jobs. Checking a student’s Facebook page or Twitter (X) profile may seem like an invasion of privacy, but if you choose to interact via social media, you also choose to put yourself out there for the world to see.

Security settings can only offer so much protection and it is up to students and their parents to stress the importance of why it is critical to keep social media reputations clean.

Have you ever seen the result of positive or negative online postings? Share your thoughts on this aspect of social media and why students need a clean online presence in the comments section. I’d love to keep the conversation going!

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