It’s an open secret that admissions officers across higher education may review an applicant’s web presence, from online publications to social media accounts. A 2018 survey of law school admissions officers by Kaplan Test Prep found that 56% said that they’ve looked at applicants’ social media pages when evaluating them, and 66% said they’ve found things that hurt applicants’ chances of getting in.
While law admissions officers don’t have time to track each candidate’s online footprints like a bloodhound on the hunt, it won’t look good for an applicant if a cursory search reveals signs of poor judgment.
No law school wants to admit a student who might act irresponsibly. A hothead who acts immaturely online might antagonize classmates, tie up administrators’ time, cause a newsworthy scandal or worse.
[Related:What Does It Take to Get Into a Top Law School?]
This is one reason why it’s important to write an addendum if you have any disciplinary issues in your past, to provide context and take responsibility.
And it’s also why law school applicants should examine and clean up their online presence before submitting their applications. Here are some tips to tighten your online presence:
— Investigate yourself.
— Check your security.
— Err on the side of caution.
— Continue to use social media responsibly.
Pretend you’re a detective. Spend an hour sleuthing through the internet to see what you can learn about yourself based on the information that your law school application will include.
There are plenty of clues to work with. For example, your resume includes your name, address, email address, school, jobs and activities. So it won’t be hard to narrow down your identity, even if you have a common name.
Don’t forget to conduct an image search, browse common social media platforms and check out sites you may have commented on like YouTube and Reddit.
Scrutinize what you find. Remember that even if something seems hard to find, someone using a different search prompt might stumble across it much more quickly.
Check Your Security
If your audit turns up anything that might appear unprofessional out of context, do your best to remove it. Consider deactivating any related accounts for the duration of the application process.
[Read Law School Admissions Process: A Month-By-Month Guide.]
Even if your social media accounts seem uncontroversial, it’s better to deter snoopers altogether. Change your security settings to be as private as possible to ensure that they’re not visible to strangers.
Make sure your privacy check covers every base. Don’t neglect dormant social media accounts that may still be searchable years after you last used them.
Err on the Side of Caution
Remember that law school is a professional school, so law schools value professionalism. Some content that may not be blameworthy, immoral or offensive might still raise a red flag.
Examples of unprofessional content include sexually suggestive photos or videos, positive portrayals of drug or alcohol use, or comments or opinions about sensitive cultural topics like race, gender, sexuality and social class.
This doesn’t mean that you have to censor yourself completely. Law schools appreciate students with a range of political views and other beliefs.
[Read: What Law School Applicants Should Know About the Bar Exam.]
Here’s one test if you are unsure about an image or text: Imagine a future client finding it. Would it undermine your authority in the client’s eyes?
Continue to Use Social Media Responsibly
While the internet is always evolving, social media currently plays a vital role in campus communication. Classmates may use social networks and online forums to connect with like-minded colleagues, organize social events, and solicit and share advice.
Most law schools also maintain an active social media presence and put a lot of information online that can be useful for applicants.
So, there’s no need to stop using social media or to disappear from the internet altogether. Just remember what any good lawyer will tell you: Treat anything you write online as public information, because you never know who may see it one day.
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How Social Media Posts Can Affect Law School Admission originally appeared on usnews.com