As the school year winds down and college application season draws near, so comes to mind one of life’s most central questions: Oh, crap, what do I do with my Facebook account?
Urban legend has long been that, as part of the application process, college admissions officers take a peek at prospective students’ social media profiles. You might have heard as much from your high school guidance counselors or even from current college students themselves, but before you go scurrying to delete that Facebook video of you and your friends having a 3AM dance-off at your sleepover last weekend, hear me out.
As a college applicant, I pulled out all the stops to hose down my social media presence. I deactivated my Facebook, deleted my Twitter account and (empty) YouTube channel, and combed my blog for expletives, painstakingly removing each one. I was convinced—or at least my over-supportive and over-anxious mother was convinced—that each instance of rebellious behavior would assure admissions officers of my poor moral character.
So, I wiped the slate clean. I would be the most un-Googleable high school senior ever to embark upon the college admissions journey.
But after the fact, what I found out was that it didn’t matter. Admissions officers are swamped enough as it is with the piles upon piles of applications they have to power through before admissions decisions are released. They have little to no interest in your (probably mundane) social life and are fairly unlikely to spend their time sifting through your endless Tumblr photos of your cat sleeping. Unless the kind of cooking you do in your mom’s kitchen is of the Breaking Bad variety, admissions officers won’t take a second look at what’s on your Facebook profile.
And you know what? It turns out that Harvard students, and occasionally professors, curse. It turns out that Harvard students party, and sometimes those parties involve the same defiances that your helicopter parents are telling you to delete photo evidence of on Facebook. And it turns out that everyone here has a bit of a rebellious streak—and to be honest, it might be part of what got them here.
Because leaving that profile, that blog, that channel, is a show not only of personality, but also of courage. Letting admissions officers see the series of #nofilter selfies you took during your misguided Instagram phase is, as odd as it seems, analogous to saying, This is who I am. This is who I am when I’m not putting my cleanly scrubbed best face forward. By going all out, guts out, you’re telling them, I want you to accept me. I want you to accept all of me.
I personally respect that. And I imagine the admissions officers do too.