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We all look back fondly on the days when we first created our social media. Though you may find your old posts amusing, colleges may not. How many embarrassing or potentially damaging things do you have lurking on your social media accounts?

As you may have suspected, colleges will look at your online accounts to get a better idea of who you are and what you’re like (this including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter). In 2017, a Kaplan Test Prep survey reported that out of the 350 college admissions counselors that participated, 35 percent of them had inspected potential students’ social media accounts. While the internet is forever, there are some things you can do to clean up your pages before your first choice searches for your profile.

1. Change your privacy settings

We know, you want to stay public to increase your chances of becoming an influencer. WE GET IT. But until that happens for you, you should switch your privacy settings to private. Limit who can see your pictures, tweets, statuses, likes, and information. Keep it between you and your friends, not the whole world.

2. Start from the beginning

Go all the way back to the beginning of your internet existence and remove anything and everything that might hurt your reputation. You may want to deactivate old Pinterest or Tumblr accounts you don’t use anymore. Consider deleting anything that may come off as rude, obscene, or judgmental. This includes posts and photos you’re tagged in. If your friends won’t delete incriminating evidence, untag yourself and hide it from your profile.

3. Think from a different perspective

When looking at your social media accounts, imagine yourself in the shoes of an admissions counselor. How would you describe yourself solely based off these posts and images? We all know that social media is heavily curated and is not always an accurate reflection of real life. However, it still says something about the way you want to be perceived. Delete anything that you wouldn’t want your parents or grandparents to see. (Especially if it’s related to drugs and alcohol). When you’re all done, Google search yourself, and make sure the results are appropriate.

4. Make permanent changes

If the process of cleaning up your social media took more time than expected, think about the ways you can improve your online habits. If you have a tendency to turn to social media for venting feelings of anger and sadness, consider other, more private outlets. Call up a friend when you’re upset, or open up a journal to write down your thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your ideas and opinions online, but they may not have the intended effect if written in a heightened emotional state. 

5. Think about starting a career-focused account

Now that you are growing up and approaching the world of adulting, consider cultivating an online presence that reflects the person you want to be. Not that you shouldn’t be authentic, but consider using your online presence as a way to give voice to your dreams. Follow accounts that inspire you to be the best version of yourself. Start a professional blog to show off other strengths online. 

There you go! Now your social media pages should be squeaky clean. By improving your image online, schools won’t overlook your application due to a silly post you shared online years ago. With a bit of practice, you are on your way to cultivating a positive and productive presence online!