On January 13th, Kaplan Test Prep released the results of their annual survey of business schools, speaking to admissions officers from 288 top schools around the country. The results clearly indicate that an applicant’s social media profile could well be a factor in the application process. Here are some particularly important stats:
- 36% of admissions officers said they visited applicants’ social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, to learn more about them.
- Of those who said they visited social media sites, 19% said they do it “often.”
- Social media accounts negatively impacted an applicant 32% of the time, and had a positive impact 38% of the time.
- 59% of admissions officers considered social media accounts “fair game,” while the other 41% said it was “an invasion of privacy that shouldn’t be done.”
So what does this mean for you? It means that before you apply, you should seriously consider doing an audit of ALL of your social media accounts. Don’t leave a single one out, even if you think that you’ve only used Pinterest for collecting cute ideas for knitting socks, or Instagram for posting pictures of your dog. At some point you may have posted, liked, or commented on something inappropriate.
To help you do your social media audit, we have put together the steps below.
5 Steps to Optimizing Your Online Presence
1. Google yourself
You want to see what admissions officers will see, so start with a simple Google search for your name. Once you see where you have a presence and where you don’t, then you can continue on to the following steps.
2. Clean up your act
Your application package could be flawless, but if adcoms see your Facebook or Instagram littered with inappropriate pictures, your Twitter feed overflowing with obscenities or obvious trolling, or a racist blog post, that 760 GMAT score or 3.9 GPA might not matter.
Keep questionable content private; or better yet, delete it – after all, is anything online ever really private?
3. Get social
Lest you think we are convinced social media is bad, our next piece of advice is to make sure that you have the basics of social media covered. Any tech-savvy, modern applicant should have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile, and having other social accounts like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are totally acceptable (though not needed professionally). While it’s important to be careful about how you present yourself on social media platforms, you also don’t need to appear like a caveman totally out of touch with the digital world we live in.
4. Make yourself easy to find
Since you can assume there is a decent chance adcoms will look at your social media presence, why not optimize search results for your name to make it easy for them to find you and have what they find there enhance rather than harm your chance of admission? First, you can buy your domain name – pick a URL with your name in it and use that site to keep all your social info in one place (i.e. links to your social media profiles on other sites). You can also use About.Me, WordPress, or Tumblr to consolidate your social presence and make yourself easily searchable. Also, by claiming vanity URLs for your social profiles (setting up /yourname at the end of a link), you can make profile sharing easier and further optimize your online presence.
5. Make what’s found reflect well on you
What you post doesn’t have to be boring or overly professional. You can have passions and other interests. You can even have political opinions or religious beliefs. That’s all fine. Even good. But if you have a few posts, pics, tweets, or status updates that don’t reflect well on you and that you can’t get rid of, post new, positive material to push the old stuff down the rankings. Maybe you can’t make it disappear, but you can make it less prominent.
As you consider how to interact with social media going forward, even if your settings are private, act as if what you post is public. Would what you are about to post make your favorite teacher proud? Your boss who you so respect? Your beloved grandmother? If not, don’t post it. Whether you realize it or not, social media is a reflection of your personal brand, and will continue to be as you move forward in school and with your career. Treat it with care. It represents You!
Final Thoughts On Social Media And The Grad School Process
Once you have done your audit, enlist the help of someone you trust implicitly (parent, family friend, colleague, professor – essentially anyone you know who has your best interests at heart) to check through your accounts as well. Once you have made any changes suggested from them, you can be confident that you have taken every step possible to present the best version of yourself not only through your application but through your social media presence.
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