Your online presence can influence scholarship decisions

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A 2012 survey found that scholarship providers routinely search for online information about scholarship applicants. In some cases, the providers may find positive information that strengthens an application (Wow, this applicant is creative, funny, and engaged in some great activities!"). In other cases, though, that information could result in a candidate's being screened out because of negatives like underage drinking or other examples of poor judgment.

The survey was conducted by Fastweb and the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA), and a summary of the findings were as follows*:

  • Around 25 percent of scholarship providers search sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to learn more about applicants.
  • Of those that conduct such searches, around 75 percent are looking for red flags, or negative information that might reflect badly on the scholarship sponsor.
  • Your online presence can help you as well! More than half the scholarship providers said they examine the applicant's online presence hoping to find instances of creativity, good communication skills, or other positive attributes.
  • About one-third of the scholarship providers who reviewed an applicant's online presence said there have been instances in which an applicant's online behavior has been responsible for that person being denied a scholarship.

The takeaway is that even though it may sometimes feel as if you're anonymous and unobserved when you're online, you're not. It doesn't mean you have to always act in a formal way, as if life is a never-ending job interview. It does mean that you should act as if you're in public — because you are.