Friday, May 9, 2014

Take Control of Your Digital Footprint: Advice for Teens

Social Media
College applicants need to be more careful about posting online because it can and increasingly will be viewed by the interviewer. Your digital footprint is becoming more and more important in a world where almost everyone uses social networking. Your online presence gives important information about your life to the interviewer that cannot be obtained anywhere else. Make sure you put your best self on social networking sites and never expect anything to be private.

Over 73% of the population uses social networking sites and the number is growing. Having a clean and professional online presence becomes more important as the number of social media users increase. The number of college interviewers and employers who are checking their applicant's social media is also increasing. Over 25% of interviewers say they have Googled or checked the applicant’s Facebook profile. This number is up 5% from last year. Of those who check, 35% say they have seen something that negatively impacted their applicant’s chances at being accepted. This number is nearly triple from the 12% of last year. Once something is posted, it remains on the web even after you have deleted it. Through sharing, a private post or photo can spread to all sorts of people with embarrassing results. A casual post or comment made long ago can haunt you because once it is out in the web, as it is almost impossible to remove completely.

There have been many cases where an acceptance to a college is revoked because of something that comes up online. When colleges check social networking, they are mostly looking for hate speech and unthoughtful comments or pictures. Interviewers say they scrutinize social media only when they see these types of comments. At Bowdoin College, a high school senior posted hateful speech on Twitter. Although she was denied by the college because “her academic record was not competitive enough,” the absence of those posts would definitely have increased her chances at being accepted. Make sure you think before you post and be aware that colleges are checking. Colleges look at your friends and what they post as well. Make sure your friends are not posting unthoughtful comments as this can negatively impact your chances just as much as your own posts.

Posting online is not all bad, however. Social media is a great way to stay connected. Having a clean and professional online presence will help you greatly. Colleges interviewers notice when you have a good digital footprint with intelligent posts and comments. Maribeth Kuzmeski, a social media expert, says, “In a tough employment market, a social media presence can make or break job candidates.” A professional digital footprint can give you an important edge when applying to colleges or jobs.

There are several ways to improve your digital footprint. Do not post anything that would be uncomfortable to share with your parents or grandparents. Always be respectful and thoughtful to the people you are talking to. Social media is another place besides your resume where you can show off your knowledge and share your interests. Post your achievements and activities that you are most proud of. Hopefully, if you are smart about your posts and comments, social networking will help you get into your dream college.

Conclusion: Updated 29 May 2014

Having a good digital footprint is important when you are applying for college or a job. This is the first time I have done a blog but I had a very good experience. I was nervous at first about publishing, but afterwards, I was glad to have done this project. I learned a lot about my topic (and blogging) during my research and from the comments. Thank you all for reading and commenting on my blog. After doing this project, I am working on improving my digital footprint and having more presence online. The comments were very thought provoking. Some comments pointed out whether colleges should have the right to look at the applicant's posts and comments in the first place. After doing some additional research, I found that there are some legal constraints on interviewers. For example, the employer or interviewer cannot discriminate against someone from information gained from posts. This can lead to discrimination claims. Also, some states are passing legislation to ban interviewers from asking for the applicant's passwords to social media sites. As long as the interviewer is not violating these laws, I believe they have the right and should check the applicant's social media. This is because the applicant is responsible for what he or she has posted. As a student or employee, the applicant will be representing not only himself but the whole institution. However, I would want to do more research on the topic to see if an applicant has ever fought back successfully against a rejection from a college or job. 


  1. This is a great article that I hope to use with my class. Thanks for the statistics that you have included from the ivywise website. I was not able to pull up the links however that point to things you used in ProQuest. These links require a log in and you might want to make another 'work around' to point to what you are trying to cite. I am impressed with the quality of research that you and your classmates have done to create this website. Thanks

  2. This is nicely written, well-balanced article. You choose to focus on the positives of having a good digital footprint to help your chances to get into college, or get a job, rather than detract from it. Excellent use of the example of the Bowdoin college applicant!

  3. This article is great. The number of people who use media is overwhelming. Why do you think so many teenagers in particular use social media?

    1. Hi Maddie. Thank you for commenting. As you said, social media is most popular among teenagers, especially 18-29 year olds. This could be because of teens' social structure. Teens are generally more connected because they are in school most of the day. Social media can be a way for teens to improve their self esteem. Also, peer pressure among teens is very strong. If a teen feels like all of their friends are using social media, they will want to use it also.

  4. Andrew, here is a link to the Kuzmeski information that others should be able to read (you can change the link above to help readers out). Of course you know I greatly appreciate your advice to teens here, and it's one of the big reasons why we have this class in the first place. :) But I have a few questions to challenge some things a little bit. You say that 25% of colleges and employers are screening social media profiles, which means that 75% are not. How careful do people really have to be? Is it enough to be mindful of your privacy and security settings and call it good? Also, I'm curious if you came across any arguments that suggest it's no one's business what people share in their personal accounts? Colleges and employers ask for very specific information from their applicants. If all that has been provided, is it fair for them to go looking for information they didn't ask for? More specifically, has any rejected applicant ever "fought back" and successfully defended themselves from this kind of social viewing? Or do they reply as Bowdoin did, that the applicant was simply "not competitive enough" or some other more reasonable (read: more easily defensible) claim?

    1. Thank you for commenting on my post, Ms. Gerla. After doing a bit more research I found some sites that say about 50% of bosses check their applicant's facebook. The article I used in my blog says 25% of college interviews look at facebook. Perhaps this is because the information is slightly out of date or that there are fewer college interviews who check. Even so, I think we should be careful about what we post, even if it is not for interviews. I found this article that discussed the pros and cons of interviewers checking their applicant’s social media.

      I think colleges should be able to look at the person’s social media. Unthoughtful comments can make a bad impression on the whole company or college, not just the person who posted it.

  5. Hi Andrew,
    You wrote a great post. It's sometimes hard to find a balance between using social media innocently for entertainment and keeping it serious for you career. I read on another article ( that many employers who use social media to help determine their final decision on whether or not someone should be hired list a few different reasons for why they do it - "to see if the job seeker presents himself or herself professionally," "to see if the candidate is well-rounded," and "to know if the candidate is a good fit for the company culture." Do you think that someone's social media profile is always a good representation of the aforementioned qualities?

  6. This is a very insightful post! I am an ELA and Technology teacher-- so your statements align directly with what I try to pass along to my students. I love social media and even use it educationally. Social media is fun to use and often helpful! Unfortunately it is sometimes used unintentionally in a harmful or destructive manner. Disregarding the fact that social media can be used as a bullying weapon some people do incredible harm to themselves by posting things that reflect negatively. I like to tell my students the story of a friend who actually received a visit from child protective services because she had posted a picture of her 18 month old child tipping a beer bottle to her mouth. The bottle was empty and my friend is not the type of person who would ever give her baby alcohol. She had been getting ready to take bottles back for recycling and the baby picked one up and tipped it. She thought it was cute so without thinking she snapped a picture and put it on her facebook page. This was a perfect example of something innocent being perceived as child abuse. We all need to pause and think before we post.

  7. Hey Andrew, I thought you wrote a really good post. You balanced the writing between social media and work in the writing really well. Your pros ad cons on both sides of technology were clearly presented in this article. Many good examples were shown here. Do you balance your digital footprint to benefit you chances of getting into a good school or getting a job?

    1. Thanks for your post, Cassy. I do try to balance my digital footprint. Although I do not use much social media, I am careful about putting something out on the web. Even with emails, I want to make sure I make a good impression. After researching and learning about this topic, I am working on improving my digital footprint.

  8. Hi Andrew! I enjoyed reading your advice to all of us (especially potential college students, but probably everyone else, too,) to be careful what we post. While in general I totally agree with you that it is unwise to put things on the web that one wouldn't share with his or her grandparents, I am a little nervous about the idea that colleges and prospective employers should be making judgements about a person's friends and their posts. Do you think this is going too far when looking into someone's background? Thanks for sharing your ideas on this topic!--Ms. Riches

  9. Hi Andrew! I completely agree with your topic. The amount of things/type of things that students, applying for colleges, post online should not be taken for granted. Students must be careful with what they put on their digital foot print. I understand how colleges would feel if they saw hate speech or other acts of violence on a applying student's profile. I also agree that, although social media is a great way for people connect with each other, it should be used in a thoughtful and polite manner. There is a commonly known quote that I think applies very well to this situation: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all".

    1. Thank you for commenting on my post, hassanyou. I think the quote fits perfectly with this issue, especially with cyber-bullying and hate speech. Sometimes, even if a post is not meant to be hurtful, a person looking at it might find it offensive. In another blog, "Pause before you Post", Mona uses the acronym THINK (true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind) to determine a post's intent. Sometimes, we post things without thinking because we are angry or stressed. The web could be a much safer and better place if people posted thoughtful comments.

  10. Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.


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