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College Prep and the Internet: Exercise Caution and Privacy Control

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Internet savvy is on the rise and the electronic media culture is firmly planted—and thriving—in our society. Just in North America alone, Internet search engines have become a daily search tool for roughly 70 percent of the population. In fact, more than 60 million people log on daily to seek out information on whatever topic interests them—product reviews, college planning, driving directions, health information…college applicants…

Are they Googling you to see how your college prep is progressing?

Yes, it's true. The dirty little secret of the college admissions industry is that some admission officers are using the Internet to get the scoop on prospective students. Illegal? Hardly. Sneaky? Without a doubt. Harmful? Depends.

It's not a common practice, but it happens and the bottom line is this—if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about. But if you're one of the millions of people letting it all hang out on sites such as MySpace and Facebook, you might want to reconsider what you're doing, no matter how much fun you think it is.

For some reason, an electronic "barrier" seems to make folks feel like they can share their dark sides without anyone being the wiser. While that might have been true just a few short years ago, things are different now. The times, as they say, are a changin'. You don't know who might be watching you get ready to go to college, and it could be the college you're applying to—the human resource manager you interviewed with for a job two days ago.

This wasn't part of your college planning
Tales are surfacing of employers looking for dirt on applicants by typing their name into Google, the most popular search engine out there. Kids and young adults bragging on peer sites of their drinking or who they hooked up with have been exposed when their parents decided to do a little digging around online. Ouch! What might such detective work do to your college plan? Are you ready for all your college prep efforts to be made worthless?

Let's be honest here. If you're a 40-year old returning to school, you're less likely than the younger generation to be found smiling out to the world on your own personal Web page—but you might be! However, as a teenager or young adult, there's a good chance that you have a personal blog out there for the whole world to see. Eighty-seven percent of teenagers use the Internet on a regular basis, often as their primary form of communication with friends and the world at large (apart from text messaging on cell phones, of course). As a young adult today, you are a child of technology and your social life has taken on a whole new context. Our society is just starting to experience the repercussions of over-disclosure.

As far as college prep is concerned, it's not all bad

This whole issue doesn't have to be all about what people shouldn't know, though. If you can't resist the idea of electronic socializing, then use the Internet to your advantage. College applications aside, it's just simply not wise to reveal too much—in more ways than one—on the Internet where who-knows-who is watching.

However, you can make sure that what you put out there focuses on the positives—things that won't harm your efforts to get into college. How about happy blogs about your stellar GP—not the knock-down, drag-out fight with your best friend last week (you can put that in your bedside paper diary). If a college admissions officer decides to look you up, ensure that he or she finds either nothing or nothing but the best. It may actually help sway the decision to admit you—in your favor!

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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