Your Facebook profile may cause you to lose a scholarship. It can also
help you win a scholarship.
According to a recent survey of scholarship-granting organizations
about a quarter of scholarship providers evaluate the online presence
of finalists before selecting which students will win scholarships.
These scholarship sponsors use web search sites like Google and
social media web sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter to
look for online information about the finalists.
Three-quarters of scholarship providers are searching for red flags,
such as whether the applicant demonstrates good judgment and will
reflect well on the scholarship sponsor. The presence of provocative
or inappropriate photographs or remarks, insensitive or discriminatory
remarks, signs of illegal activities such as underage drinking and the
use of narcotics, or evidence of a negative attitude can cause a
student to lose a scholarship. All else being equal, scholarship
providers will pick a finalist with the more professional online
About a quarter of the scholarship providers use online information to
identify or resolve conflicting information about the applicant, such
as lies about qualifications listed on the application or other
information that is inconsistent with the student's application.
But scholarship providers also review a student's online presence for
positive reasons. More than half of scholarship providers did so to
get to know the applicant better, to look for creativity and other
positive personality traits or to evaluate real-life communication
According to the survey, a third of scholarship providers who reviewed
an applicant's online presence have denied an applicant a scholarship
and a quarter have granted an applicant a scholarship because of
information they found out about them online.
So students need to be careful about the information they post online,
since this information may be visible to others. Even private Facebook
information may become public if the scholarship provider requires
finalists to add the scholarship provider as a friend. It is best to
act as though everything you do online is in public, where anybody can
In addition to scholarship providers, college admissions staff and
employers are starting to review the online presence of candidates, so
an inappropriate post may affect whether the student is admitted by a
college or gets a job offer from a prospective employer.
Tips for Developing a Professional Online Presence
Just as you'd want to maintain a professional appearance in an
in-person interview, it's a good idea to maintain a professional
The following are several tips for improving your online profile so
that it gives a good impression.
- Google your name. Look for inappropriate material in the first
ten pages of search results. Correct any problems, if possible, by
editing the content of the pages that show up in the search
results. Do not delete the web pages, as the inappropriate information may
persist in the web search site's cached copy of the web page. Changing
the content of the page will cause the search site's results to change
the next time the site's web spider reindexes your web page.
- Use an appropriate email address, such as
firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not use offensive or sexually
suggestive email addresses.
- Review your Facebook account, removing inappropriate and
immature material and anything that may be misinterpreted. Remove
pictures or videos that show illegal or questionable behavior. Avoid
using profanity. Delete questionable posts by others on your wall.
- Think twice before posting anything offensive, illegal or
- Ask an adult, such as a parent, to review your Facebook page to help
you identify problematic material.