In the penultimate post of our speaker series, Dr. Maggie Wray of Creating Positive Futures, LLC asks Carolynn Crabtree of Cornerstone Reputation the hard questions: When do students need to start thinking about their online reputation? And are there mistakes that students/parents are making online?
Thankfully Carolynn came armed with answers, backed by Cornerstone Reputation’s unique research. Head to the blog to avoid the pitfalls and begin successfully engaging with colleges online.
Carolynn: This will probably not be a surprise. The first second you hand that device over to your student, you should start laying the groundwork to respect online spaces, respect your own content online, respect your peers online. The sophistication of that education can evolve over time.
We really recommend that transition from middle school to high school as a fresh start. You’re having a new set of friends. You’re starting on that journey. We don’t love the pressure aspect of it, but you are starting on that journey to maybe think about what college you might like to go to, if you’d like to play a sport in college, even what kind of job you’d like to experiment with later on.
So, start thinking about that timeframe as a time when you can really put your student through an educational program to help them understand how their content is stored online and how they can use that to their advantage.
Dr. Wray: Are there maybe one or two things that you see parents or students doing that you would say are mistakes in this process that they might want to be aware of?
Carolynn: Yes, and I’m glad you asked that question. Certainly, one of the things – and I can’t say it enough – is students not paying enough attention to content that they themselves are posting on peers’ sites.
This is the same problem of students thinking “Great. My content is all positive, all great, showcasing me in a great light. But on other people’s sites, I can experiment a little, use some different language. Probably anyone who’s searching me won’t find that content.”
This is a big mistake because typically what can happen is the same admissions officer from a college will be assigned to everyone who’s applying to their college from that high school. As you can imagine, as they start looking through their applications, as they start hunting some of these students down online, they will start to see how they’re connected, they’ll remember names, and they will see some of the content that a student is posting on other people’s pages.
So, we really want to make sure that you’re being responsible and being aware of content on your own page and content you’re posting on peers’ sites because admissions officers can find those pretty readily.
Another mistake we see happening is parents and students mentioning colleges on social media platforms and not understanding the potential consequences that can actually have. Almost all colleges in this day and age that we worked with have departments dedicated to their own social media, and they are very invested. They track when their schools are mentioned online by others.
Many stated that if a student mentions their name officially in a social media post, they themselves will reach out to that student. They’ll start this dialogue, start this connectivity.
Certainly, if you’re doing comparisons of colleges online and putting their names down and tagging them – or if your parents are doing that – and any of it is negative, we have heard that they do reach out to the admissions office and say “Listen, this came across our own desk when we were doing searches. We got an alert.”
So, just be aware of that. If you are going to mention a college or tag them online, make sure it’s positive content.
Another instance in which admissions officers may search for an applicant online is when a student actually engages with a social media outreach effort of a school. Colleges are engaging with students on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They’re really hoping to attract students, get their attention.
Like I talked about before, what will happen is admissions officers will friend or follow students they’ve met on college fairs, on campus tours, or even at admissions interviews. This institutional and personal outreach is really beneficial for both parties when you look at it. It can help a student get to know a college better, help an admissions officer determine the actual interest level of a student or an athlete.
But obviously there are some unintentional consequences as well – a student unknowingly relaying a less-than-appealing impression or an admissions officer who’s not actually searching for a student’s content could just come across content that they posted on their own feed because they’re now connected.
So, those little nuances and being aware of how you’re connected and how you’re engaging with a college’s social media platform is critical and an arena for mistakes but also an arena for opportunities.
Edited by Jennifer Schwartz