College recruiters, counselors, professors, and future employers check your social media. They see what you post AND what you comment on other sites they also follow. And they’re often looking back (way back!) to your early high school years. 

Racist, derogatory, sexist, or otherwise offensive comments can become cause to drop a student from consideration for admission or scholarships, or even to rescind an existing offer. In competitive admissions, recruiters are looking for ways to whittle down their candidate lists, and your own words and photos, shared publicly, can have a considerable impact.

According to a recent Kaplan survey of college admissions officers, 35% visited applicants’ social media pages. Of those, 42% found negative items, but almost half found positive information. So how can you show off your best online self to college recruiters?

1. Clean up Your Profiles

Look at all of your social media accounts (especially old ones you don’t use anymore), and delete anything you wouldn’t want a college recruiter to see. Double-check your photo libraries, too.

2. Google Yourself

Search for your own name and see what appears. You might be surprised at a photo tag you weren’t aware of or a blog comment you’d forgotten about. Fix anything that needs removal. Set a Google alert for your name (and nickname) to keep an eye on future mentions.

3. Check Privacy Settings

Verify who can find you online and what they can see about you on social media sites. Privacy settings may have changed if you’ve not been on Twitter or Instagram in a while, so check now, and set a reminder to re-check in a few months.

4. Be Professional

Be sure your email address, Twitter handle, and usernames are simple and not cutesy or possibly offensive.  (While you’re at it, double-check your voicemail message too!) YankeesSuck@yahoo.com isn’t a good look.

5. Use Your Smarts

Make sure you look like a college prospect. Use correct spelling. Be appropriately attired and age-appropriate in your posts. If you share an opinion, make sure it’s based on facts and logic and reflects well on you. Don’t comment on posts that will trigger backlash or controversy. Avoid posts that you find funny but which could be offensive to others.

Make sure any time you post or comment to keep it positive—something you wouldn’t mind your parents and grandparents seeing. Pretend a college recruiter is stopping by your online presence today, and use the opportunity to show why you would be a great addition to the freshman class. Use your social media to improve your college admissions!

6. Showcase Yourself

Share your successes: articles about your achievements, Hudl athletic profile, photos or videos of musical performances, etc. Don’t be an over-the-top showoff, but do share your worthy accomplishments that could add to your admissions portfolio. If you are a musician, singer, athlete, actor, or have another talent best shown by video, create your own YouTube channel. Start a blog if you’re a writer or a Pinterest or Instagram page if you’re a photographer or artist.

7. Follow Your Favorite Schools

Like the Facebook, Twitter, and other social media pages of your desired schools. This low-effort research may help you get a better sense of which college could be your best fit. You might also make connections with admissions officers, future professors, or future roommates. Demonstrated Interest is also one method admissions officers use to gauge how likely you are to accept your admission, which may also boost your chances.

8. Join LinkedIn

Show the world that you are college and career-minded. Connect with teachers, employers, colleagues, neighbors, church leaders, etc. These can be great sources for references. Use this Profile Checklist for College Students to get started. 

9. Use the ZeeMee App

The free ZeeMee app offers opportunities to connect with colleges, and with millions of students who may be applying, admitted, or going to your schools of interest. You can also follow your friends and/or potential roommates. Chats are available for communities you choose or can be private.