Social media is a huge part of today’s social realm. If you take a moment and think of all your friends, you probably realize that they all have some kind of social media personal page. And I’m sure you do too! While these social networks are great for connecting with friends and family, and even meeting new people, they can be a detriment to your scholarship efforts. Having this information in mind, set aside some time before, or directly after, you mail out that first scholarship application to investigate and (if necessary) clean up your online presence.
Are you wondering why this is necessary? I bet you think that your Facebook page has nothing to do with your scholarship application. Well, if these are your thoughts, you are unfortunately very wrong. There’s an excellent chance that the scholarship organization will spend time searching for you on the Internet to see what comes up. If you’re shuddering at the thought of the scholarship committee seeing anything on your page I recommend you follow these tips for “scrubbing” your Web reputation squeaky clean:
1. Google yourself. Search for every possible variation of your name on Google. If anything unbecoming pops up in the search results, do what you can to have this taken down.
2. Check your social media sites. This includes Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, Blogger, etc. Make sure all the content on these sites is dignified and academic, meaning that it’s serious, and grammatically correct. It would be wise to include blog posts about social issues, quotes from famous people you admire, poetry you’ve written (not including dirty limericks), etc. Your social media pages need to present you as being “smart,” “mature,” and “hardworking.” If it doesn’t do those things, then clean up your page and replace it with content that does.
3. Web pages that can’t be scrubbed should be hidden. Try to use nicknames when creating your social profiles and always use the highest privacy settings so that people must be approved in order to see the page. After doing these things, you should still log out and check what information appears on your default profile page. If a picture that depicts you partying or anything else that would be unflattering to a scholarship committee appears, log back in and replace it with something else.
4. Take those videos off YouTube. Do this right now. You know which ones I mean.
5. Remain vigilant. Just because you cleaned up your Web presence today, doesn’t mean it will be clean as a whistle next week. Be aware of what others are posting and tagging with your name. Some search engines even allow you to set up “alerts” to warn you every time your name shows up on the Web. I would recommend using this to your full extent.
6. Check your voicemail. This is of the utmost importance. If you have an inappropriate ringback tone or voicemail greeting, you need to either replace it with something professional and appropriate, or kiss your scholarship chances goodbye.