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Some Scholarship Sponsors Review the Online Presence of Finalists When Selecting Winners

Mark Kantrowitz

February 24, 2012

Some Scholarship Sponsors Review the Online Presence of Finalists When Selecting Winners
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.

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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,

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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

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providers will pick a finalist with the more professional online presence. 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 skills. 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 see it. 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 online appearance. 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 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 otherwise inappropriate.

  • Ask an adult, such as a parent, to review your Facebook page to help you identify problematic material.

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