Boost College Applications With a Positive Online Presence

Bradford Holmes

Increasingly, colleges and universities turn to the Internet while screening applicants -- they check Facebook and Twitter, conduct Google searches and more.

While not all schools participate in this practice, and while even those that do may not screen all potential incoming students, you can never be truly certain of who may be searching for your online presence, as well as when and for what purpose.

Many high school students believe that the most important thing they can do is scrub their online accounts of all material, including images, posts and videos, that is either embarrassing or paints them in a negative light.

While this is certainly important -- you do not want your online persona to negatively affect your chances of admission to college -- it is also critical to construct a strong online persona that is positive. It is just as crucial to build up as it is to tear down. Below are three questions to ask yourself about your Internet presence as you apply to colleges.

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1. How can you support your application? Applicants may spend hours combing through their social media accounts and deleting all potentially negative comments, images, posts, tags and so on. But Facebook, for example, is also an excellent platform to present yourself positively.

Even the smallest of details, such as using proper grammar, can reflect well on you. Posting pictures or videos that support what you detail in your application is also a wonderful idea, as it provides visual evidence of your activities and interests. Facebook can provide context that words on a page simply cannot.

If you are a musician or an actor, post pictures of your performances. If you are an athlete, upload a video of yourself in action. If you do volunteer work -- at an animal shelter, hospital, soup kitchen or similar volunteer opportunity -- post an item that shows you working in that capacity. Doing so lends credence and weight to your application.

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2. How can you demonstrate interest in a program? Do not hesitate to use Facebook -- as well as other social media platforms -- to connect with the schools you are interested in, as well as individuals at those colleges or universities. For instance, friend or follow professors who work in the field you wish to study as an undergraduate.

You can interact with schools in multiple ways, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This is a strong way to show your interest before visiting the campus or completing an interview. In addition, LinkedIn allows you to build a network of relationships at a specific college or university, as well as demonstrate to schools that you are proactive and professional.

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3. How can you influence searches of your name? It is also important to ensure that search engines such as Google return positive results. There are many ways students can have good things associated with their names, but most involve publications, or your own blog, online channel or website that carries your name, either in the URL itself or otherwise.

Musicians, athletes, actors and all sorts of artists whose performances or products would be best expressed in video format can create a YouTube channel. Aspiring writers can host a blog. Would-be photographers and painters can use Pinterest or Tumblr to display their work.

There are numerous possibilities to consider when deciding the forum that best fits your needs. The most important thing, however, is to present a positive image of yourself online to show off your personality, your life and your work for college admissions officers to view.

Bradford Holmes is a professional SAT and Latin tutor with Varsity Tutors. He earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his master's degree from the University of Southern California.