Admissions officers, recruiters, counselors, professors, and future employers are checking your social media. They’re seeing 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 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 huge impact.

According to a recent Kaplan survey of college admissions officers, 35% visited applicant 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?

DO 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.

DO 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.

DO 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 Facebook or Tumblr in a while, so check now, and set a reminder to re-check in a few months.

DO 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.

DO 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.

DO 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 worthy accomplishments that could add to your admissions portfolio.

DO 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 future professors or roommates.

BONUS 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.

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.