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10 Social Media Tips Every College Applicant Needs to Know

More and more college admissions officers are looking up applicants on social media—and yes, it can affect their decision. Here are 10 ways to make sure they like what they see.

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Make sure your Facebook page is squeaky clean

Nearly 40 percent of college admissions officers say they check out applicants’ Facebook pages and other online profiles. Click through your photos and remove any that show you doing anything stupid, offensive, or illegal. In other words, if you wouldn’t show it to your math teacher, or if there’s a cup in anyone’s hand, hit delete. Read through your profile, favorite links, pages you’ve “liked,” etc., and use the same criteria. Do the same on Tumblr, Twitter, and anywhere else you have a digital presence. Here’s what your social media says about you.

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Untag yourself

Your own pages may be clean, but your best friend just posted a picture that is definitely unsafe for college admissions officers…and tagged you in it! Untag yourself from questionable photos on anyone’s social networking page, even if the photos don’t show up on yours.

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Google yourself

If 20 percent of admissions officers are doing it, you should too. You may be surprised by where you pop up, and in what context. If you find anything potentially incriminating that you can’t remove yourself, ask the owner of the profile or website to take it down. Here’s what the Princeton Review has to say about how to make sure you like what you Google: “Social media accounts are usually some of the top returns, so cleaning up those profiles goes a long way. School activity is likely to show high up as well from writing an article for the school paper to participating in an extracurricular activity or club that’s on the high school website.” Creeped out by how much Google knows about you? Here’s how to stop Google from tracking your web activity.

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Set up an email account just for college applications

Heads up: you’re going to get lots and lots of emails from colleges. Create a new email address and use it solely for correspondence related to applications, interviews, inquiries, and campus visits. Learn the commonly used “crutch word” you should avoid in a job interview (and in college interviews, too).

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Check your usernames

You might’ve thought that the screen name “groovygurllllxoxo” was cool in middle school, but chances are, admissions officers won’t think it’s so cute. Make sure your screen names are professional, and delete or change any that are not.

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Better safe than sorry

Usnews.com says it best: if you’re on the fence about whether or not something is OK to post, “the best course of action might be to not post it at all.” Here are 7 things it could be downright dangerous to post on social media.

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Use LinkedIn

Social media’s not all bad! Basically a “digital resume,” this (free) professional networking site is a great way to put all your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and after-school jobs in one place. Having a LinkedIn profile will definitely make you stand out. Just make sure you’re not making these LinkedIn mistakes.

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Don’t be afraid to share the good stuff

While getting rid of any questionable online posts is definitely imperative, you can also use colleges’ social media searches to your advantage. While you don’t want to brag, don’t be afraid to post pictures of your volunteer work, links to an article you wrote for the school paper, or something else that showcases your talents and passions. According to TIME, many admissions officers have said that “they found details, such as leadership roles or community service, that reflected positively on an applicant.”

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Repeat until your acceptance letter arrives

By definition, online profiles are continuously evolving, and a “one-and-done” approach may not be enough. Scrub your profiles regularly throughout the entire application process, being diligent about searching for anything that may leave a less-than-stellar impression in an admissions officer’s mind.

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Repeat when applying to graduate school

Just because you’re now an “adult” doesn’t mean you’re off the hook; graduate admissions look at online profiles too. So even though most graduate school applicants are legal drinking age, you should still untag yourself from that picture of your college friend’s raging keg party. Keep in mind that graduate schools are most likely looking for even more professionalism than undergraduate admissions. Here are the life tips all college graduates need to know.

Sources: The Princeton ReviewGOOD

Originally Published in Reader's Digest International Edition