If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, then you know we are big advocators for keeping your social media content clean and free of anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother (or admissions counselors!) to see. Studies have shown that admissions departments are increasingly relying on social media to get a more well-rounded impression of the students they consider, and in many cases, what they’re finding isn’t working in students’ favor.
And it isn’t just admissions counselors who are snooping – a recently released survey of members of the National Scholarship Providers Association, an organization whose members determine who is to receive more than $1 billion dollars in scholarship money each year, has revealed that they, too, are trolling your social media profiles, and they’re largely looking for reasons NOT to award you their money.
Conducted by the National Scholastic Press Association and FastWeb.com, the premier online scholarship resource, the survey indicated that scholarship providers are looking at social media to determine things like whether a potential student has a positive attitude and overall good judgment, whether their profiles contain inappropriate, illegal or disparaging images or posts, and whether the qualifications they’ve listed on their applications are accurate, inflated or perhaps completely false. They might also be searching for signs of creativity or other positive personality traits, although, on the whole, they’re more likely to be searching for things that are likely to affect you negatively. In other words, having just one photo or post that another might consider to be in poor taste can indeed make the difference between whether they pick you or the next person on the list to receive critical scholarship money.
So what can else can you do to maximize your chances of receiving scholarship money, in addition to fine-tooth combing your profiles? (For a breakdown of what social media sites scholarship providers tend to look at most, refer to “Watch Out for the Scholarship Police,” by Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author of The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price). For starters, Google yourself. See if anything potentially negative shows up in the first 10 pages of results, and if it does, see if it’s something you can control or have removed. Also, make sure that the email address you’re using sounds mature and appropriate. Lastly, when in doubt, have a trusted adult screen your profiles and remove any content that they deem questionable or potentially troublesome.
Regardless of your personal beliefs as to whether these methods of recruitment are ethical, they’re happening, and with greater frequency each year. Taking the time to screen your online identity may help secure you thousands of dollars for your education in the long run.