Out of our hometown of Newport Beach, California, we were rocked by posts emerging on social media of a Nazi drinking game at a high school party. There are two things wrong with this: (1) Nazism and (2) underage drinking games caught on camera. I am not going to delve into how offensive/dumb this was—but rather focus on what these types of incidents mean for this process. 69% of college admissions officers report snooping on social media to search for applicants. Demonstrating support or approval of hateful ideology or illegal underage drinking is not what an applicant wants to be associated with.
Applying to college is the culmination of building a brand over several years. This brand should demonstrate work ethic, leadership, and an ability to contribute to a community. All it takes is one offensive post, tweet, or inappropriate picture to tarnish a person’s brand for their life. Your kids’ employers will search on social media to find them. The people deciding whether they are admitted to their dream school will do the same. Poor judgment at a minimum can be a disqualifier in a competitive process. Please remind your kids as I do to: (1) set their accounts to private and (2) do not post anything that could be considered offensive or in poor taste to a hyper sensitive person. This includes liking posts or commenting on them.
How do you determine whether something is in poor taste? I ask students if they would feel comfortable having their name and picture on the front cover of The New York Times and a copy of whatever was posted/liked/shared. If the answer is no, there is your answer. We live in an era where it is easy to offend. When in doubt, be conservative in applying this test. Our perception of what is "OK" tends to diminish with age. Also remember, we can be found guilty by association. If every person is doing something illegal, and your child happens to just be there in the picture, many reasonable minds would assume that your child is also participating in that activity as well.