By now, most students have heard the horror story about some student who was rejected by his top school because of a less-than-flattering picture that made its way to Facebook; or, worse yet, had his acceptance rescinded because of a controversial tweet that seemed harmless enough. The sob stories of social media gone wild are making the rounds these days, sending students scrambling for the delete button as they try to erase those questionable photos they used to think were pretty cool.
Before you purge your Instagram accounts and swear off social media, there are a few things you should consider. First, there are ways to use social media to your advantage. Like any marketing guru would tell you, the key is to make sure you are the master of your brand. When it comes to social media, your brand is you. And, you want to control the way that brand is consumed by your audience, which, in the case of college admissions, is any individual who could play a role in accepting or rejecting you.
Take a few minutes to look at the Facebook page for one of your prominent local politicians, and you can see family-friendly photos and encouraging messages of community involvement. What you won’t see are party pics or negative comments. Does that mean that politicians don’t ever attend parties or get angry? Absolutely not! It means they have learned how to control (some might say manipulate) their image. Like any communication medium, social media can be used for good just as easily as bad.
Social media is a great place to highlight your extracurricular activities and community involvement. The key is to take control of your accounts to ensure that the image the world sees when they type in your name is the one you want them to see. Here are a few ways to take control of how colleges see you:
What happens when you Google yourself? Cross your fingers, and see what comes up. The truth is that the situation is more than likely not nearly as bad as you might think. However, if your brand is “tainted,” it is much better for you to find out sooner rather than later. No matter how bad it may look, there are simple measures you can take to repair the damage. The sooner you can get started the better, which brings us to point number two…
When did Noah build the ark? Before the flood. Don’t wait until you are in full crisis mode to begin making some changes. Your wisest course of action is to take things one step at a time as you begin to sweep your social media accounts. It won’t happen overnight, but this race does not go to the swift, but the steady. If you rush through the process, you are bound to miss something. Take your time and do it right the first time, and you will not only create a positive social media image, you will, more importantly, instill habits that will last a lifetime. Make no mistake; social media does not only negatively affect high school students. There have been plenty of careers devastated by Facebook as well.
Social media has evolved, in many instances, into this public forum where people can get everything off their chest. Don’t allow yourself to go down that road. While it might feel good to get that “thing” off your chest, that feeling will pass, and late-night tweets rarely look as pleasing in the light of day. Focus on the positives in your life in your social media accounts. Every picture you post and every comment you make should reflect well on you.
If you make the varsity cheerleading team, post a picture of the team and add some encouraging comments about the lessons you have learned as a result of that experience. You can even start a blog to record your memories of your senior year on the student council if you feel so inclined. Instagram is a great way to track extracurricular activities so that anyone searching for you can see that you are truly making the most of your high school experience. There are so many positive outlets to show yourself in the most flattering light. Every post you make and every picture you take dramatically influences the image admissions officers will get when they search your name.
In the end, there is no secret formula to guarantee social media success. But, there are ways that you can take control of your message to determine what the finished product will look like. While erasing your accounts and hiding in your room until graduation may seem like the safer approach, it is not the smarter one. The absence of any cyber footprint will often throw up a red flag as well; so, if colleges want to see the real you when they search your name, make sure they are going to like what they see!