Times have changed. No longer do college recruiters just look at your high school grades and college application. Today, they look at your online profile and behavior. Your tweets, Facebook pics, Instagram pictures, Youtube videos and blog comments now all play a part in your college application. Don’t take it from me here is what a few admission officers have to say:
Here is a story that the NY Times published about a high school senior who attended a college campus information session. During the presentation, she posted offensive comments on Twitter about fellow attendees, repeatedly using a profane word. “It was incredibly unusual and foolish of her to do that. We would have wondered about the judgment of someone who spends their time on their mobile phone and makes such awful remarks,” – the dean of admissions and financial aid.” The college ultimately denied the student admission.
So, with that said, if you are applying to college or a job, here are a few things you should do right now to clean up your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
#1 Use SimpleWash
SimpleWash is a simple, if slightly imperfect, free tool that helps you find inappropriate content on your Facebook account (it also works on Twitter). It scours your account and compares all the text it finds, including photo captions and comments from other people on your Facebook account, against a list of bad words. The list goes well behind the dirty words not allowed on network television and includes things like “beer” and “sexy.” Once Simplewa.sh finds the content, it helps you edit or remove it by directing you to the page or post where it lives—you still have to manually hide or delete it.
#2 Control your Facebook Privacy Settings
According to a recent survey Kaplan survey, 29% of admission officers use Google and look at Facebook profiles to screen applicants. SimpleWash probably did a good job at cleaning up a lot of the offensive language and inappropriate photos on Facebook and Twitter, but that doesn’t mean that ‘Facebook friends’ can’t tag you in any future embarrassing public photos or posts. Here are a few tips to help prevent that from occurring:
Only allow people you ‘friend to view your page. Click on the arrow tab near “home” at the top of the page>scroll down to privacy settings>control your default settings>switch from “public” to “friends”.
Set your profile up so that you can review posts ‘friends’ tag you in before they appear on your timeline. This will help control any inappropriate photo-tagging mix ups. Under the Privacy Settings go to Timeline and Tagging>Edit Settings>Review Posts Friends Tag You in Before They Appear on Your Timeline>On.
Review your Facebook application permissions and remove anything that you are not actively using anymore. Go to Settings > Account Settings > Apps. Be sure to click “Show all apps” at the bottom of the listing.
Review your activity log. You can hand-pick through your content easiest using the Activity Log, which you can find on your profile page. The Activity Log lets you drill down by content type, such as photo, photos of you, tagged photos, and so forth, so you can focus on one area of your Facebook account at a time while finding images to delete or hide.
If you want, you can make it difficult for people to find you on the social media site. After all, the harder it is to locate your profile the less chances an admission officer has of finding anything to hinder your acceptance. To do this go to Privacy Settings>Apps, Games, Website>Public Search>Edit Settings> Disable Public Search.
Last but not least, view your profile as how the public would see it. Clean up poor grammar, offensive language, any racial slurs. Remove and delete photos with inappropriate clothing. Check out your Likes – remove any unnecessary pages. And don’t allow yourself to be tagged in public photos that show you as anything but a fine, upstanding young citizen!
#3 Clean up your Tweets
Twitter doesn’t give you nearly as many features as Facebook does for assessing your data. The first third party tool you should make ample use of is AllMyTweets. This simple site quickly generates a page of – you guessed it – all your tweets. Actually, that’s false … just your last 3,200 tweets, which is the limit Twitter will return. If you want or need the real thing, you can request your Twitter archive. Head to settings, and hit the archive link. It will be email to you for download.
Next, you should take stock of who you’re following – anyone done anything super messed up recently? Cut ‘em lose. And if you’re just generally a little scared of what might be in your personal stream of tweets, sign up for TweetEraser and you can mass delete using its filter feature. Last but definitely not least, head over to your settings and check out what apps you’ve given permission to – and make sure you’re OK with what you see.
#4 Clean Up Your Instagram Profile
The risk of posting or sharing a photo that will damage your online reputation continues to grow every time you add a new photo to Instagram. Here are some tips for cleaning up your Instagram profile and preventing reputation damage:
Delete Unprofessional Comments and Likes. The individuals you associate with could impact how you are perceived online. An unprofessional comment with profanity or a politically incorrect joke could reflect poorly on your character. Similarly, liking photos of strangers in provocative poses or of friends breaking the law could be interpreted as an endorsement of these activities.
Remove Unprofessional Photos. When deciding whether or not to delete a photo, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself how you would feel if college admissions officers, hiring managers, family members, or your boss saw the photo. Any images showing underage drinking, binge drinking, drug use, obscene gestures, and partial undress (think swimsuit photos) are best left off of your profile. Reputation911.com shares some more good tips about cleaning up your Instagram profile here.
In conclusion, there’s no shame in having had posted an embarrassing photo, comment or tweet. We’ve all done it before. That’s the great thing about living in the digital age: It’s all easily recorded. And this means that like the attic full of memories and mementos, sometimes you have to clean out the junk.
Learn more Interview Preparation Tips for the Rest of Us here. (If I didn’t follow these tips, I’d be waking up every morning going to some dead-end job).