Hey Financial Advisors, do you have any #graduates in the family? Then listen up!

graduating classMy youngest child will turn 17 next week. She is ready to be a senior and even more ready for college. She wants to go to a private university and we had a conversation about the angst she was experiencing regarding the admission process. One of the questions she posed was, “Will my social media accounts help me or hurt me when I apply, Mom?” Talk about long-term planning!

The question is not only extremely relevant with the college application process going on all over the United States, but truly long term as children think about getting “real” jobs after they graduate. Can they clean up their profiles? Is it simply a process of improving privacy parameters? What about deleting unsavory photos? Let’s discuss.

Cleaning Up Your Profile

According to the Kaplan Test Prep Survey (Nov 2014) over a third (35%) of college admissions officers have visited an applicant’s social media page to learn more about them. This is higher than I thought it would be and lends one to heavily consider cleaning up their profile. Many colleges today want a more well-rounded culture of students and that means stalking students’ profiles to make sure they fit the “feel” of the school not only when on campus, but especially when off.

One’s character may be in question when looking at comments and photos. This is why it’s important to think about what you do reply to…and maybe reply a lot less publicly on things. Especially when there are heated discussions, name calling or fighting; they can be seen as an aggressive behavior and a school may think – yeah, this one’s gonna cause a raucous at school, no thanks.

Something else you may not be considering is grammar and spelling. Jobvite held a survey and 66% of hiring managers said they held this against candidates looking for a job. Imagine a teen headed to school for journalism or video production. Spelling matters!

I’m not one who believes in censoring others. If you’ve got something to say, feel free to say it. Just understand owning those words, pictures, etc. may come with consequences. I’m also not saying it’s right to judge someone by certain comments possibly taken out of context, but know the practice of profile reviews exists and make an educated decision as a family on what these admissions officers will see and the impact it could have on a pending application.

Beefing Up Privacy Parameters

There’s a lot to be said for the “world wide web” and any button that says “publish” or “post”. Once you do, imagine whatever you just shared on a highway billboard for Grandma Mary to see. If you feel good about her seeing it and reading it, then you probably have a good thing there. If you would rather die than have her see something, then there’s your sign that you shouldn’t. Too easy, right?

Can you really expect anything you post on the internet to be “private”? I say absolutely not. If you put it out there, it’s a free for all. Snapchat is an easy target where people think something they published will disappear in 15 seconds. Are your crazy? Just screenshot that snap and it’s marked in history forever.

I strongly suggest setting personal profiles such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to the highest privacy parameters. It’s just a safe thing to do for a child anyway, but this will make it a little more difficult to permeate their accounts. Someone may be deterred in trying to get around the privacy settings. Every graduating teen should have a LinkedIn profile with a strong profile picture and filled out reasonably well and heavily edited.

But First, Let Me Take a Selfie

Photos in and of themselves are not the issue. Teens can take selfies with their friends, post about a great football game and share pics of their meals. It’s when the pictures and videos show risque behavior, violent tendencies and shaming others that schools begin to think twice about entry to their campus.

Colleges want to avoid potential problems and lawsuits. Taking a quick peek at an applicant’s YouTube channel, Snapchat account and Twitter feed may tell a lot about someone. I recently visited a friend’s child’s Twitter profile that had a reference to marijuana in it. The parents had no idea it was there and when brought to their attention were mortified.

Be gentle with the kids when you have these conversations too. The pressure to be cool, fashionable and carefree is extremely high for them. Children’s lives are on display for the whole world to see and pass judgment. Helping them understand you have their best interest at heart and their long-term plans in mind may help them realize how important our social presence is in important decisions like a college acceptance.

Be Bigger, Better and more BIONIC!

Sheryl Brown – @BIONICsocialite

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