Improve Your Online Reputation: Tips for College Applicants

If a college rep looked at your Facebook page or searched for you in Google, what would they find? In today’s world, your online reputation may be a key factor that admissions officers use when deciding whether or not to extend you an offer.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

The entire college application process is about showing off the best side of you. For instance, you only ask for recommendation letters from people who are likely to say good things about you. If you don’t like your SAT scores, you take the test again. In essays, you focus on your achievements and the challenges you have overcome.

But what if the packet you submit to the college admissions office isn’t enough, and application reviewers start researching online to find out more about you?

According to a recent survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, 30% of college admissions officers said that they had discovered something online about a potential student that negatively impacted their application. If college representatives viewed your Facebook photos and tweets, what impression would they get?

Hey, That’s Not Fair!

By now, you might be thinking, “Silly pictures from parties and rants about teachers and homework… They shouldn’t hold that against me. That’s just what high school students do.”

Maybe you’re right. Maybe that is what typical high school students do. But, college admissions officers – especially those from highly selective schools – aren’t looking for typical or average students. They’re looking for the cream of the crop. They’re hoping to find evidence that you have the potential to be one of tomorrow’s leaders.

There’s another important point to remember, too. No matter what college you’re considering, the admissions office is generally staffed by good people who are looking for reasons to let you rather than keep you out. They’re not on a quest to find your dirty laundry.

Instead, they’re looking for evidence that you take your academic life seriously – and that you won’t flunk out after the first semester. They want to see that you care about the world around you, which could be demonstrated by the types of organizations you follow on Twitter and the groups you belong to on Facebook.

Did you claim to be passionate about a specific topic on your college application? A lot of prospective students make these claims only because they sound good on paper. Admissions officers know this, so they often look for evidence to back up these types of statements.

What Can You Do to Improve Your Online Reputation?

First, downplay the negative. Review your social media accounts and delete anything that might come back to haunt you. We’ve all said or posted things that we probably shouldn’t have when we were angry or upset. Our friends and families realize we’re just venting, but others might view it in a different light.

The next – and, perhaps, more important – thing to do is to start boosting the online presence of your positive aspects and associations.

  • List your interests on your social media profiles. Do you volunteer for any community service groups? Are you a member of any clubs in your high school? Are you passionate about any causes, such as feeding the hungry or helping animal rescue groups? Make it easy for anyone who searches for you online to find out these things.
  • Start a blog or website that relates to one of your hobbies or interests. If an admissions officer sees that you have taken the time to create and maintain such a site, it will be taken as clear evidence that you have a serious interest.
  • Include links to your blog and/or social media profiles in your application packet. This will help ensure that admissions officers are looking at the right person – and not someone else in your hometown who just happens to have the same name as you. You definitely don’t want to get dinged for something you didn’t do. Plus, the very fact that you’ve taken the initiative to build a positive online presence will make you stand out in a crowd.

As a bonus, if you continue these practices while you are in college, you’ll have a leg up when it comes time to look for a job. Human resources professionals spend far more time researching potential candidates online than college admissions officers do. In fact, if you have a solid online reputation, you may even get job offers for positions you haven’t applied for. Now, that’s a nice problem to have.

Do you know if you're applying to the right college for you?