By Laura Morrison, February 2014
Do you stay in touch with family and friends using Facebook or get your news from Twitter? What about LinkedIn - do you share your job history online? If you do, and you also have a desire to apply to graduate school, you're going to want to put your social media profiles under a microscope.
Admissions officers could be watching
When applying to graduate programs, you want to do everything in your power to impress admissions officers and not make them think you'd be anything but a good candidate. Unfortunately, sometimes you don't realize how much potentially damaging material there is on the Web that relates to you. Also, you don't always know who can see it.
Never assume that graduate school admissions officers won't Google your name or try to sneak a peek at your Facebook profile. After all, it's something that's quite common in the realm of higher education when school officials are screening applicants.
For example, the results of a 2013 Kaplan Test Prep survey revealed that 29 percent of college admissions officers admitted to looking up applicants on Google, while 31 percent have visited these individuals' social media pages.
"As social media has skyrocketed from being the domain of a younger generation to societal ubiquity, the perceived taboo of admissions officers checking applicants online has diminished," said Seppy Basili, Kaplan Test Prep's vice president, in a press release.
So what should you look for to avoid missing out on your chance to attend your ideal graduate school? No matter what social media website you're dealing with, pay attention to your profile picture. Is the photo of you? If it is, is it an accurate representation of what you currently look like? Also, ask yourself how appropriate this image is. Think professional, not party animal.
Next, if you're reviewing your Facebook or Twitter pages, keep an eye out for posts that could be viewed as controversial or offensive. Maybe you were just joking around with some close friends, but if a comment thread is loaded with curse words and other inappropriate language, you could be putting your reputation at risk.
Before you finish cleaning up your social media pages, make sure your privacy settings have been updated. If you don't want admissions officers viewing your Facebook wall, make sure only you or your friends can see it. Having the right privacy settings can save you all kinds of headaches.
Social media advice
In 2013, Mashable dedicated one of its Twitter chats to the topic of social media and how it could affect graduate school applicants' chances of being accepted. Twitter user and prospective graduate school applicant Jacqui Layne Devaney asked how she should present herself on her social media. Fellow Twitter users chimed in with their advice.
Aside from advice such as avoiding tweets that are a little too on the personal side, Twitter users offered helpful pointers on what applicants could add to their social media pages. For example, one user, Sarah Granger, suggested applicants be proactive and share their subject matter expertise and articles, on top of following professors on social media websites.
"Grad school means more responsibility, assisting professors, sometimes fellowships. Requires professionalism online & off," Granger tweeted.
Ultimately, how you use your social media accounts is up to you. Just remember that something that could seem like harmless fun, such as sharing a picture from a wild party, could have long-term effects on your future.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010