For some time now we have all been warned that what is posted to any social network could have potential career repercussions in the future. Now it appears it is not only job opportunities, it can also affect a student's chances of getting into college or receiving a scholarship. So, in response many people have made taken steps to make their accounts private with only selected friends being able to access their posts.
Well, that preventive measure may not be enough these days.
A recent report from MSNBC's Red Tape Chronicles blog states that student-athletes at colleges around the country are being asked to "friend" a school official, giving them access to posts meant for friends only.
Similarly, some employers are asking job applicants to logon to their accounts during the interview. This is nothing new as a 2009 survey commissioned by Microsoft, 70% of U.S. job recruiters said they have rejected candidates based on information they found online.
Facebook doesn’t support this invasive practice and spokesperson Frederic Wolens said many such school and employer policies appear to violate the site's terms. "Under our terms, only the holder of the email address and password is considered the Facebook account owner. We also prohibit anyone from soliciting the login information or accessing an account belonging to someone else," msnbc.com quoted him as saying.
Another story from The San Francisco Chronicle, reported that scholarship providers are going to Facebook and other social media sites to help vet applicants.
The Chronicle stated that about 75% of scholarship providers said they are on the lookout for behavior that could reflect badly on the provider. This was based on a survey conducted by FastWeb and the National Scholarship Providers Association.
A picture of your student partying could cost you a college scholarship
Be careful not to allow pictures from high school parties where the student is being seen drinking or acting wildly to appear on the web. It is very easy for friends to “tag” a picture and then have these appear on the web.
It is not just Facebook
About one-fourth of scholarship providers who responded to the survey said they use sites such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter to check out applicants, primarily just finalists.
Here are more details from the survey:
Approximately 3/4s of respondents are looking for behavior that could reflect badly on the scholarship provider, such as underage drinking, provocative pictures, illegal drug use or racial slurs.
Another 1/4 of the respondents wanted to verify information on the application.
About 1/2 of the respondents wanted to know the applicant better or were looking for positive traits such as creativity or good communication skills.
1/3 of the respondents have denied an applicant a scholarship, and a quarter have granted an applicant a scholarship, because of something they found online.
Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org. stated, “none of the providers were doing real extensive research or background checks on applicants," he says. "They are looking for red flags."
Online searches are on the rise
Although fewer than 10 of the survey respondents claimed they have denied a scholarship based on their online sleuthing, the practice could become more common and will increase according to industry trends.
What Parents and Students Can Do
As we have seen the odds of losing a scholarship are relatively low. However, it is now time to manage your online reputation before your student needs to apply for a scholarship or a job. Here are some steps you should take immediately:
Google your student’s name. Look for inappropriate material in the first 10 pages of search results. Correct any problems, if possible, by editing the content of the pages, not simply deleting them.
Make sure your student always uses an appropriate e-mail address. Some students have email addresses that may be funny or lack maturity.
Make sure you student is avoiding using profanity on any posts.
Remove any inappropriate comments or post made by others on your student’s Facebook wall
Check Google Images for pictures of your student that may raise red flags
Many of these suggestions can be done easily. At times, you may find some information that may be harmful and not easily removed. When this occurs consider working with an online reputation management company such as www.zoomlocalsearch.comcan help overcome those problems. Companies such as these can guide you through an online reputation clean up.
The bottom line here is the need for parents and students who plan to apply for college must be proactive. There is no reason why any student should find themselves being questioned by what is found online. The reason why online reputation is so important is the real possibility schools and scholarship providers are looking at whether the individual has good sense and will reflect well on their organization.
This is just a sample of the many tips and strategies that I share at my college planning ABC workshops. Allow me to extend a personal invitation to check out the next workshop.