College is great. It’s a time for freedom, for exploration, for extreme pressure coming at you from all directions….
Wait, what? Now that we’re all living our lives digitally (read: visibly) at all times even college students need to stay on top of their social media personas. Colleges are quickly realizing social media is a great way to keep tabs on students – good and bad – and they won’t hesitate to use what they find against you if necessary.
So, how are colleges using social media to keep tabs on students? Better check your profiles.
They’re checking for inappropriateness.
Some students make it easy for college disciplinary boards to harangue them simply by being inappropriate online. Not only could tasteless photos and statuses get you expelled, they could hurt you long down the road once you start applying for jobs, too.
The Solution: Take this stuff down! You should always be hyper-vigilant about your online persona which means monitoring every tagged photo, curse-word laden status update, and even keeping an eye on the groups you’re in and who you follow. Never, ever rely on privacy settings to shield you from your college staff’s prying eyes. Not only are you probably more visible than you think, it’s relatively easy for disciplinary staff members to gain access to your profiles through other college students. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want your mom to see it, it shouldn’t be online.
They’re monitoring your attitude towards authority.
When you’re enjoying the first taste of freedom of your life, a little rebellion seems like a good idea. The good news is, colleges aren’t going to breathe down your neck if you miss class (you rebel, you!) but they will take notice if you’re trash-talking the campus police, the University President, or the faculty and they won’t stand for it.
The Solution: Remove all offending material. Even if that Instagram photo of you TP-ing the chancellor’s yard at 3am is your Best Selfie Ever, take it down! It’s just bad form to complain about school or social hierarchy and it makes you look ungrateful and immature. Not only that, but colleges get enough flack from the media – they don’t need your bad attitude bringing down the school average.
They’re seeing if you really need that financial aid.
Financial aid gifts from colleges are supposed to be unbiased but it’s probably best to avoid posting pics of your new $300 sneakers if you telling your college you can’t afford textbooks.
The Solution: Don’t use social media to be a braggart. Take down any super-flashy pics you’ve posted and think twice before “checking in” at your local Louis Vuitton store. Whether or not you need financial aid, no one likes a bratty college kid and you’re probably coming across that way whether you like it or not. Now’s the time to learn how to be humble and grateful for everything you have, and bragging about material possessions just makes you seem insecure and vulnerable to peer pressure. Not only that, but future employers will hesitate to hire you if you seem wasteful and entitled.
They’re noticing what you Like.
Maybe you “liked” that Misogyny As a Lifestyle group because you were writing a paper in high school and you wanted to have an ear to the ground. That’s smart! What’s not smart is making that information public or leaving it visible once you’re done with said paper. Like it or not, what you align yourself with online is a reflection of your college.
The Solution: Treat your social media profile like a T-shirt. If you wouldn’t proudly wear a shirt proclaiming your love for something totally politically incorrect proudly down the street, don’t put it online. You wouldn’t want to be friends with someone like that and colleges don’t, either.
They’re Googling you.
Unfortunately, sometimes you have very little control over what college admissions counselors actually see. If a simple Google search of your name pulls up something unflattering (an arrest for shoplifting, for example) there’s not much you can do to get rid of it.
The Solution: Face the problem head-on. If you’ve been through something your college has a right to know about, particularly a legal issue, go ahead and fess up. You’ll probably face more lenient punishment than if you hide the offense and wait for someone to take notice. Beg for forgiveness and hope your college takes your honesty as a sign you’re a changed student.
Spokeo is a great tool for online research, especially for information about yourself. Be sure to run a quick search on your email and any usernames you commonly use. See what’s out there about you. Maybe an old Flicker profile with photos you’d rather not share? Yep, you can thank us for helping you find it!
Don’t make your time in college harder on yourself. Enjoy it! Go out! Have fun! But don’t feel like you have to document everything you do on social media. College is precisely the time for you to make stupid decisions and big mistakes…you’re only hurting yourself by creating a very public, very permanent record of it all.