There are three key technology rules when it comes to applying to college:
1. If at all possible, use the college's online application, and ask their tech support for help the minute you run into a problem.
2. Create a new email account just for the messages that will be sent to and from colleges.
3. Clean up any and all social media pages you have.
Students understand the first two with no problem. College applications need to be clear, clean, and thorough, so it's important to make sure you're uploading your college essays, not your prom pictures.
Ditto for a new email account. Email be old school to you, but this is how most colleges contact you, even once you enroll. This makes it easy to keep track of college contacts, and it's probably all for the best colleges not know your personal e-mail address is email@example.com
But try and talk the pluses of website maintenance, and students are convinced their counselor roamed the Earth with dinosaurs. The insist colleges don't care about social media accounts, and are too busy to check them -- to prove it, students will ask colleges if they look, and the colleges will say no.
Fair enough -- except when I asked a college if they looked, their answer was "Do you really think I'd tell you if we did?"
Play it safe. Rough language, risky pictures -- even having an account under another name -- can hurt you and anyone else who's in those questionable photos with you. Once you've tidied up yours, ask your friends to take anything off their pages that makes you look iffy. After that, search for yourself on the web, and see what's there. You might not need to address it or be able to do anything about it, but it's better for you to know before the colleges do.
And even if the colleges don't look, they sometimes find out in very remote ways that can do serious damage...
(Based on a true story that happened somewhere else.)
Joanna thought she was all that
She knew she was a winner
A 3.9, a 32
The gal was no beginner.
Took five APs and tutored, too
Her homework was a snap
Spent most nights on the Facebook page
Just dishin' out some smack
She posted pix of homecoming
Her folks would see as knockouts
But dog, they'd never seen them, since
Her FB page was blocked out
You can't imagine her surprise
When her counselor said "Yo lady"
I got a call from East Coast U
The news will make you crazy!
The U was ready to admit
When in arrive their intern
'The buzz is all on Facebook, man
These pics will make your hands burn.'
The intern loaded up the page
Of some homecoming hijinx
And in the photo, there was you--
Which made our rep do eye blinks.
"They saw your picture once or twice
And thought they'd overlook it
But then they read your FB smack
And that's what really cooked it.
Your essays were all erudite
And very nicely tailored
But then they saw the real you
Has language like a sailor.
They read your app and loved you, girl,
It's you they were admittin'
But now they said they just can't take
A profane party kitten."
So dudes and dudettes, hear me out
Few colleges go lookin'
But if FB vibes come their way
That just can't be mistooken
Your full ride dough, your dream admit
Are goin' down the tank, sir
And all because you tried to be
A bad-selfed Facebook gangsta.
Follow Patrick O'Connor on Twitter: www.twitter.com/collegeisyours