Susie looks like a great candidate for X school. The school is ready to write her an offer of admission. Until the Admissions Officers logged onto Facebook.
In the month since Susie had submitted her application, she had posted pictures of several illegal items and activities. That was it, she was done. She would no longer be receiving an offer of admission.
I could go on with story after story of how one’s online presence has ruined an opportunity. Illegal substances, underage drinking, and swearing, to name just a few, are all topics that can impact an interviewer’s or college’s perception, if not decision.
Aside from explicitly illegal behavior, is it fair for us to make decisions based on “unsavory” behavior we see on a public profile? Maybe not, but we are all human and the brain constantly takes in data and uses it to make decisions.
Quite simply, it is human nature to gather data and subconsciously or consciously use it to make decisions.
So, how should we handle our online presence? See below for some common questions and answers regarding social media.
Can I still have online profiles?
Yes, absolutely. You have 3 options:
1. Privatize. This does not guarantee that someone who really wants to see your profile won’t see it, but it adds a strong layer of separation and is enough to dissuade most people from looking further.
2. Change your online name. If you are actively applying to college, I strongly advise altering your name online. For example, you can change your Facebook name to your first and middle names. I recommend doing this in addition to number 1.
3. Take charge of your profile. Some people use their online profile to enhance their applications. They use social media to build their personal brand. They regularly and exclusively tweet professional tweets and are using that as another way for the college to get to know them. Perhaps they strictly monitor Facebook and use it as a forum to stay in touch with family and showcase their interests outside of college. Whatever the case may be, take charge of your profile and project an image that colleges would see positively.
Do I need an online presence?
Short answer: no. An online presence is not needed. However, depending on which colleges you’re applying to, a well-crafted presence may be necessary and will significantly set you apart.
Should I add a social media link to my resume or application?
Some applications require a link to a social media site. If they don’t, consider how strong and targeted your profile appears and make a decision. I would be happy to take a look and make a recommendation. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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