After (or even before) you mail out that first scholarship application, you should set aside an hour or so to investigate and (if necessary) clean-up your online presence. Take note of how many times throughout this book I advise you to research the scholarship organization to learn more about them? There’s a good chance that the judges might do the same thing to you! What dirty not-so-secrets will they find out about you after fifteen minutes of browsing the Internet? If you are shuddering at the thought, follow these tips for “scrubbing” your Web reputation squeaky clean:
- Google every possible variation of your name. If anything unbecoming pops up about you, see if it’s something you can have taken down. You want the committee to find only re-posted news articles about your good deeds and awards, not the joke page your best friend set up back in middle school that describes your fictional exploits of you stealing from the corner store.
- Check your social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, Blogger, etc.). If all your content is dignified and academic, meaning serious, grammatically correct blog posts about social issues, quotes from famous people that you admire, poetry you’ve written (not the dirty limericks), etc., then you are just fine. Your social networking profiles will prove an asset to your cause. If your pages do not make you appear “smart,” “mature,” and “hardworking,” do you have the time to fix at least one of them so that it will show you in your best light? Snooping scholarship judges will be more impressed at finding something flattering about you than if they uncover nothing at all.
- For web pages that are impossible to “scrub,” make sure they stay hidden from sight. Try to use nicknames to create your profiles, and always keep your privacy settings fixed so people must be “friended” or approved somehow before they can get inside. Even so, log out and check what information appears on your default profile page (the place where it says, “You must be this person’s friend to view any more information,” or something to that effect). Your picture will probably show up there, so you might want to delete the shot taken at THAT party, and replace it with one of you sitting demurely on a park bench with a sweet smile and your head cocked adorably to the side. It may also help to have a puppy sitting on your lap.
- Get those videos off of YouTube. Right now. You know which ones I mean.
- Stay vigilant, because your Web presence might be clean as a whistle on Tuesday, but a total mess after Saturday night. Watch what sort of photos/videos other people are posting and tagging with your name. Yes, it was totally awesome how you jumped over your grandpa on your skateboard after he fell asleep at the family BBQ, but, unless you’ve applied for a skateboarding scholarship, this isn’t the type of accomplishment you want to showcase for the judges. Some search engines allow you to set up alerts to warn you each time your name pops up on the Web. Use them!
- Most importantly check your voicemail. If your ringback tone is “Drop it Like it’s Hot,” you might as well drop your scholarship chances like its hot. Keep it professional so you don’t scare off scholarship judges.
Now, keep your fingers crossed that no crazy party people have the same name as you! And feel free to leave a comment on this post, but make sure to say something that reflects well on you as a person!