WEST HILLS (CBSLA.com) — With college application deadlines just around the corner, teens are finding it's not just what's on paper that matters, but also what's on the web.
For 17-year-old Emily Caramelli, of West Hills, it's taken lot more than just cracking the books to get into college.
"I have been doing research on what to write my personal statement about, so I can come off as a cool person to the colleges and they'll want to accept me," Caramelli said.
This teen is more than just book smart.
"I definitely know colleges are getting online and looking at your social media because that is out there," the aspiring college student said.
Caramelli is among the growing number of college-bound students who say their online reputation could be at stake when it comes to applying for college.
"I've heard horror stories about someone saying they see them with a drink in their hand and not accepting them. Because I don't think that is fair, I don't want to put myself in that position," Caramelli said.
A nationwide survey revealed top colleges across the nation admitted to using social networking sites to assess prospective students.
The research done by Kaplan, a company which provides test prep and admissions help to students, asked 320 college admissions officers. They found that 10 percent admitted to using social media for college entrance review.
And companies, such as Experian SafetyWeb, are tapping into the findings.
"Students today have so many obstacles getting into college. Their social media profile shouldn't be one of those obstacles," Experian SafetyWeb's Senior Vice President of Marketing Ken Chaplin said.
Chaplin said there is more to be said when it comes to a student's online reputation.
Experian SafetyWeb scans millions of sites to see how their clients are represented online. They offer feedback on how students can represent themselves for who they really are.
Experts recommend using a search engine to find out what's out there.
"Enter some claims you make on your application and see what comes up," Chaplin said.
He also recommends checking your profile photo.
"A lot of people have profile photos that are very expressive socially, and talk about who they are. Make sure that's a photo you want admissions officer wants to see," Chaplin said.
Chaplin advises students to clean up old posts.
"Go back through your profile and make sure all your posts that are there are ones that you want there," Chaplin said.
Students should set their accounts to private, so only the people they want seeing their information can see it.
"Set limits to the ability for people to tag you. On your profile, upload photos of you or the like," Chaplin said.
Caramelli has already taken a lot of these tips into account.
"I try to keep everything online really clean and appropriate. I always try to say: What if my grandmother saw this? How would she feel?"
While not all colleges use social media as a tool for admissions, experts say it's still wise to manage your online reputation.
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