The following piece was written by Paul Bodine. Paul has been featured in our Admissions Expert series and is the author of the best-selling admissions guide, Great Applications for Business School. He currently runs his own firm, Paul Bodine Admissions Consulting.
Remember that embarrassing photograph you posted on Facebook? How would you feel if Harvard Business School's admissions team saw it? Think you’re safe just because you only share pictures with friends? Think again. If you believe that admissions officers aren’t looking at your online life, consider this a wake-up call.
Consider these stories from undergraduate admissions:
- Admissions officers at Bowdoin College in Maine followed the Twitter feed of an applicant during an information session. She wrote disparaging comments about others in the room, giving the admissions team a reason to flag her application. Regardless of her academic track record, her negative commentary likely would have been enough to get the boot.
- At Pitzer College in California, an admissions officer saw offensive remarks about a high school teacher on an applicant's Facebook page. In this case, the undignified comments were enough to keep this student from receiving an acceptance letter.
Admissions officers at schools such as Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business don’t have a specific procedure for checking the social media of applicants. They may not Google your name, but if they spot anything unusual, or they’re on the fence about you, they may well check. According to a Stanford official, a negative social media presence “would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, just as all the information we have on any given candidate is." This can be frightening for candidates who have been less than discreet online.
High school students are now being counseled to keep a clean record of their lives online in order to avoid turning off colleges. You, too, should Google yourself. Spend a few hours cleaning up the media you can control, asking friends to remove any posts that feature you doing or saying anything derogatory, or get a program that can help track your reputation, such as:
- Social Mention or Whostalkin to track social media more generally.
- You can set up alerts for mentions by using Google Alerts.
You can (and probably should) speak to your admissions consultant to devise a plan to remove or counteract your online life.
Remember that a robust social media presence can enhance your admission chances, so you don’t want to remove yourself entirely. Most admissions officers suggest a strong LinkedIn profile that clearly supports your professional interests. They do want engaged students who network and contribute to online knowledge in their professional niche. In fact, if you are a year (or even six months) from applying, you can proactively use this time to develop an effective online presence—consider starting a blog, Tweeting more, or ramping up your existing social media presence. It's true that admissions committees may not even see your social media, but then again, they just might.
Visit Paul Bodine Admissions Consulting for more information.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.