Almost every student has an online presence today, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, some other social networking site, or their own blog. Colleges and universities are aware of this and are increasingly using the internet to get to know more about prospective students.
Instead of letting this worry you, why not use this knowledge to your advantage? It’s also not as difficult as you may imagine. The key lies in deleting all online references that paint you in a negative light and putting some effort into creating and projecting a positive self-image.
Here are a few ways you can do this.
Enter Your Name In Your Favorite Search Engine And See What Turns Up
This is one of the best ways to check exactly what others will find when they search your name. Check out the results that show up and see what’s written about you. Pay special attention to your social media accounts. Scroll through the past few months and delete all potentially negative posts, comments, images, videos, and tags.
Did you post a potentially distasteful or politically incorrect comment (even in jest)? Delete it.
Are there any images of you that portray you differently from the image that you would like to project? Delete those too.
Have you posted any embarrassing videos of yourself on Facebook just for a laugh? It’s also time to delete those.
Once you’ve cleaned up your online presence, it’s time to work on using this space to showcase your skills and present yourself positively.
Use Social Media to Build a Positive Online Persona
If you have been using social media already, even if it has been just for fun, you already have a head start. You are familiar with these platforms and thus do not need to spend any time learning how they work. What you will need to do though is to develop a strategy that will help you get the results you want.
Connect with the colleges you are interested in
You can do this by liking the college’s Facebook page, following the college or the faculty on Twitter, and interacting with them on all or some of the social media platforms where they have their accounts. This will not take much time at all, yet this simple action is an excellent way to show your strong interest in the institution before the interview or even before sending in your application.
Use social media to highlight your interests and areas of expertise
Instead of only posting funny pictures, start using your Facebook account to highlight your skills, and your accomplishments. This can give your application a tremendous boost especially if you are looking to enroll in a highly competitive program. Let’s say you want to apply to medical school. The best way to express your interest in medicine is by posting regular updates and pictures that demonstrate your altruistic side. Talk about your experiences and upload images and videos that show you volunteering at a community center, working with an aid organization, or participating in a medical placement in a third world country.
Launch your own blog
Launching a blog has become easier than ever before so there’s no excuse not to. Having your own blog gives you a fantastic space to host your portfolio of works and showcase your talents. Interested in enrolling in a music program? Upload photos and videos of your performances. Discuss different genres of music, musicians and musical instruments. Post links to interesting music-related news items you’ve come across. Are you an avid photographer? Upload some of the best photographs on your blog as well as your Facebook page. Follow this strategy for any field you are interested in.
Build relevant networks on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a powerful platform for anyone looking to network and boost their professional profile. Building relevant relationships with other professionals on LinkedIn speaks volumes about your interest in a particular field. It also lends credence to your application.
Be mindful of correct grammar usage
Whatever you post, wherever you post, always take great care that your posts and also comments are grammatically correct. Very often it’s the small things that count. Too many grammatical errors in your posts and comments can say a lot about your carelessness, which can also weigh heavily against you.
Your online presence can do you a world of good if you use it correctly. On the other hand, it can do irreparable damage if used irresponsibly.
A Few Important Don’ts
So you’ve cleaned up your act and started working on building your online presence. Along with all of the things you should focus on doing, there are a few things you should not do.
Watch for these mistakes that are often overlooked and which could also cost you your application.
Do not post rants about the application process or anything related to it. Nobody likes a complainer. The application process challenges students, who need to rise to that challenge.
Had a tough interview in one college? Don’t broadcast your negative experience. Other colleges may stumble about it and may think twice about calling you for an interview.
Never say anything negative about your college visits or your experience with the admin staff at any college. If you have to say anything, make sure it is positive.
Resist the temptation to complain about any of your high school teachers. Only post complimentary comments or none at all. Derogatory comments about teachers are never well received by any college faculty.
Feel strongly about something political or religious? Think about keeping those thoughts private. The person reading your statements may think differently and could—even unintentionally—hold it against you.
Avoid jokes that make fun of any particular race, color, or culture. Again, you do not know who will be reading it at the other end. It could hurt their sentiments along with your chances of getting accepted.
Taking time to build a positive online presence is well worth it for the many benefits it offers and it’s also never too early to start. Don’t wait till after your applications have been submitted. The earlier you get started, the more time you will have to strengthen your online presence and influence searches of your name.
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