The teenage years may seem like a time to get away with being irresponsible and carefree. However, many teens and even parents forget that life-changing decisions are just around the corner. Most high school students submit college applications at sixteen or seventeen and begin applying for scholarships soon after. High school athletes face scrutiny during their junior and senior years as well.
College admissions personnel and college scouts are scrutinizing these teenagers. They examine personal essays and resumes, ask for interviews, and read letters of recommendation. They are also examining social media profiles; and, if they don’t like what they see, offers of admission and scholarships are withheld.
With the price of college tuition increasing every year, a teen’s social media blunders could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Meanwhile, teens continue to obliviously post, message, and tweet away opportunities. What mistakes are they making?
1) They post revealing pictures (in more than one sense)
A suggestive profile pic might seem fun at the time, but colleges are unlikely to be impressed by a bikini shot. Keep in mind that all but the strictest social media privacy settings allow anyone to see a profile picture.
Skin aside, other kinds of pictures can turn off professionals. Images of drinking, partying, drug use, or bullying will destroy a teen’s online image too.
2) They post too often
While surprising, this social media habit was specifically listed by a Big Ten recruiter in the Chicago Tribune as a mistake. When teens post at all hours of the day and night, admissions advisors may ask, When is this kid studying?
3) They post extreme content
Your teen’s political ideology may be a little outside of the mainstream, and that’s ok. However, posting extreme left- or right-wing content might make some people think your teen is too “out there” to match their team, campus or workplace culture. Others might worry that your teen may not know how to work with those with other value systems. A good rule of thumb is if you would not talk about it at a real-life social gathering, you probably should not post it online.
4) They post insensitive or unkind messages
No one likes a bully, and in recent years, schools and the law cracked down on harassment both on and offline. Combine that with the fact that behavior on college campuses is subject to increased scrutiny these days, and it’s not surprising that colleges are being extra careful whom they invite to represent them. Each college student has the power to build or injure their alma mater’s reputation for the rest of his life– colleges don’t want to take any chances.
5) They use unprofessional profile names
No email, handle, user name, or profile name should include profane, suggestive, or violent content. While a goofy online moniker may have been funny or cute twenty years ago, an online presence should now be as clean-cut and inoffensive as behavior at Grandma’s house.
6) They don’t Google themselves
If someone Googled your teen, what would they see? While your teen may have sky-high privacy settings and immaculate posts, his or her friends might have less discretion. Make sure you know what any online searches will turn up, and clean up the results if necessary.
Don’t let your teens lose thousands of dollars and countless opportunities because of their online profiles! Have the social media talk again and again, and clean up their profiles. Your teens will thank you later, and they will learn valuable lessons about presenting themselves online and in real life.
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