Q: What's an example of some no-no's for students Facebook or other social networking sites that college admissions officers might see?
A: I’ve heard this before: anything you wouldn’t want your mom or dad to see, you don’t want an admissions officer to see. That’s a good rule of thumb. If you would be embarrassed to show your mom or dad than don’t make it publically available on a social media site.
Alcohol is a big thing – I see kids posting pictures of themselves doing shots. Why ruin your chances before you’ve even applied? They don’t want to admit someone who they can see possibly getting alcohol poisoning. Also, pictures of kids smoking. I try to tell kids leave out anything outside the scope of school or extracurricular activities, just to be safe. Even any kind of band that you like – there was a student I worked with who had “Liked” a group on Facebook with some explicit lyrics. I encouraged her not to post that band, just to err on the side of caution.
Q: What's your advice for students who are worried about their digital footprint?
A: You don’t want to give an admissions officer a reason to maybe put you in the reject pile. You want to have as clean and pristine an image as you can without being inauthentic. I can tell you with certainty: [admissions officers] do look online; the information is public. You should tread very carefully. And employers look too! So it never really ends. It is in the public domain, so you have to be constantly aware of that.
Are there things students should post online to help their college search?
A: Any pursuit – for example, if you’re a photographer, post pictures you’ve taken. I’ve had writers post poetry. I knew of someone who posted a video of her middle school dance recital – it was funny, but it was related to her getting back into dancing. Anything that demonstrates your outside interests. Homemade footage of awards ceremonies – that kind of thing is great, it can only help.
Risa Lewak is the author of Don’t stalk the admissions counselor.