In this week’s blog, we’ll delve further into the nitty gritty of Cornerstone Reputation’s Carolynn Crabtree’s conversation with Dr. Maggie Wray. Carolynn explores the overlapping spheres of public and private content for student athletes and lists specific and actionable ways that all students can improve their online reputations. She also answers the question ‘If I include a link in my college application, do admissions officers have to click it?’. The answer will surprise you!
If you’re connected with current collegiate student athletes, does that mean you need to think about not just what you’re posting publicly but also what you’re posting for your friends?
Carolynn: Absolutely. The same actually goes for admissions officers. They’re so young and this world is so interconnected that you might have a “friends of friends” phenomenon, where you are already connected to an admissions officer, so they might have higher visibility into your content.
Or maybe you really connected with an admissions officer when you visited a campus and you became friends with them on some of your social media platforms, and some of that cross-pollination starts to happen. They see more of your personal content, your “private” content. I use quotations because we all know that privacy on the Internet is an ambitious word.
So, for students to be more mindful of how they are connected to other people online and who their public and who their private audiences really are.
Dr. Wray: And it might not be what you expect: what you think is your public audience versus your private audience might actually be a little different than what you were anticipating. You might have more people in that so-called private audience that you thought were just friends.
Carolynn: Exactly. The diagrams might look more like this than you think.
Dr. Wray: That’s so interesting and important for students to be aware of.
As they’re thinking about that, what do they need to keep in mind in terms of things that maybe an admissions officer or a player on your future team might be searching for that might negatively impact you that you want to make sure you don’t have?
Also, how do you keep those from showing up? Do you have to not post them? Is there a way to remove things if you’re thinking “Oh, no! I just posted something that I really don’t want my recruiting officer to see”? Is there any way to get that down, or is it on the Internet forever?
Carolynn: That’s a great question. I’m going to touch a little bit on some of the content that you definitely don’t want to have online affiliated with yourself as a student and then also on the flipside, some of the content that’s really positive to have online that admissions officers and coaches have told us that they will start to see you in a more positive light if they can find that type of content about you.
From our research, we found that 43% of the admissions officers who we searched found negative content about applicants. None of it will be a surprise to you: inappropriate or offensive language or content, extra-aggressive content, especially for athletes.
But a surprising piece of information here is that they’re also looking for your command of the English language and what kind of grammar you’re using when you post. Again, because they know that your applications are so edited and tailored, they really want to see what your command of the English language is.
So, be aware of how you’re commenting on content and what your captions look like. Are they meaningful and impactful and really representative of how you use the English language?
Another big no-no you probably won’t be surprised about is any kind of bad-mouthing of your current school or teachers. One of the things we found that an admissions officer had discovered that was positive was a student who created a Facebook fan page about a teacher, a teacher who’d had a lot of positive influence on the student in their high school career. They were really celebrating that teacher and the impact they had on them. That instantaneously shed a really positive light on that candidate for those admissions officers and it was almost an instant yes for them.
Now, talking about taking control of some of that content and how it gets up there, I’m going to address later, especially more preventative measures you can take that will make sure that that content never gets up there or never gets posted to a public audience.
But let’s talk a little about some of the positive content that you can have online affiliated with yourself that will really cast you in a fantastic light to an admissions officer or even a future employer when they’re searching you online.
The great news is that 47% of admissions officers said that they found content that affected then positively when they were looking at an applicant online.
My number one piece of advice to students is if you are doing something particularly impactful or unique or just something that you really care about or are passionate about, to reach out to a local newspaper and pitch them that story. Even better, what we would say is write that story yourself. Make sure your name is spelled right when you’re listed as the author or as a co-author by that paper for the article.
The reason why we encourage you to do this – we want it to be authentic; it should be something you really care about – is the weighting that Google gives to a website that is so official, such as a news entity’s website. That will carry a lot of weighting, a lot of importance, on the Google algorithm side of things. What that means is that when an admissions officer or a gatekeeper or a coach searches your name, that will be one of the first things that comes up because of how important that website is.
So, that’s a really easy way for students to get some awesome content online that’s either affiliated with them or about them and that will be pretty much guaranteed to be one of the first things that a gatekeeper will find about them.
We have some other pieces of advice. This is the type of content that admissions officers told us straight up that they found really positive and really fantastic for a student to have online: articles in a school newspaper, a citation of academic achievement, a website that has a student has built him- or herself, recognition or a mention of volunteer work done on an organization’s website.
I know that summer is coming up and a lot of students will be doing really spectacular volunteer work this summer. Make sure with the organizers of those organizations that if there’s an opportunity for your name to appear on that organization’s website, see if you can get on it because again, that website will carry a lot of weighting for Google and will come up as one of the first things when someone searches you online. What a fantastic thing to have affiliated with you.
A couple other things are citations for athletic achievement and a student’s personal blog. A blog is great because it is a limitless way for a student to talk about something they care about, something they’re passionate about.
If you include that link to your blog in your college application, most of the schools we surveyed have a policy where if a student includes a link in their application, they have to click on it. What a cool way for you to all of a sudden have expanded the amount of content you get to share with an admissions officer and really invited them into your world in a meaningful way that you’re in control of.
Dr. Wray: That’s fantastic. Rather than everything resting on that one essay, now all of a sudden, you have a chance to have a bigger conversation with them through that blog and share some things you’re really passionate about and excited about.
Carolynn: Exactly. And, of course, having that mentality, making sure that blog isn’t linked to any other content that’s yours online that you’re not proud of. Making sure that everything affiliated with that blog or any links you put in it all cast you in a positive light.
Dr. Wray: And what a cool thing to be able to share with college admissions officers. I bet most students never even knew they could put a link to their blog in there.
Carolynn: It’s great way for admissions officers to all of a sudden see a much more three-dimensional version of you, not just the responses they were expecting because they asked those questions in their application. All of a sudden, you’ve really opened up their mind to all the different facets of who you are as a candidate and an individual and the way that you’re going to embrace the college campus that you’re hoping to get on.
Edited by Jennifer Schwartz