Well, that’s a semi-misleading title. We’re not going to talk about the need to wear deodorant today. Instead we’re talking about the need to present yourself appropriately to the situation of applying to bschool.
You may need to clean up your act.
Have you Googled yourself lately?
What does your social media presence communicate?
We did a whole lotta posts recently on the idea of authenticity in your apps. If you are authentically a Grade-A #1 Jerk-O in how you interact with the world on social media, then, well, we suggest doing more than just whitewashing that history. It might be time to rethink your approach to life. But that’s outside the purview of the ‘Snark’s influence.
Along with the tactics of being a fine upstanding citizen (which is hopefully not a tactic) and showing good manners (ditto), the opportunity of applying to bschool could also be a chance for you to look at how you’re perceived by others. And, maybe, in some ways, to change.
Take this moment to do a survey of your social media accounts. If you need to check privacy settings, then do that.
While it’s true that certain individuals have made it to the upper echelons of American public life despite the fact that they are absolute a-holes, it’s unlikely that that trend will continue — and if we were you, we wouldn’t count on the adcoms being quite so gullible. If you’re showing your true colors out there on them interwebz and those colors are glaring and obnoxious and rude, then you’re not likely to have an easy time making it into one of these places.
YMMV, of course.
But now may be the time to look at the face you’re presenting. Do you retweet jokes and put-downs that might be offensive? Do you make snide comments about celebrities and politicians?
It’s fine to show personality, and to have an opinion. We’re not saying you need to scrub all traces of heated debate or evidence that you are a free thinker. You can engage with other people on the internet in ways that are respectful and courtesy, that still make your feelings known.
It’s the behavior that crosses the line into personal attacks, or that shows signs you do not see others as equals, that may strike a complete stranger (read: adcom person) as distasteful.
Rude people are admitted to bschool all the time. You’re not necessarily going to be rejected simply for being rude. If you get your jollies out of pushing other people’s buttons, or if you feel that just because you believe a certain thing in a certain way, that anyone else who has a contrary opinion is an idiot and must be denigrated in public…. If you’ve ever participated in doxxing of any kind…. These are traits that most business schools are not going to find very attractive.
Being authentic would imply that you should leave all that stuff out there.
If it’s truly who you are, then maybe you should.
But we ask you today, at this crossroads in your life: Is that the person you want to be?
What to check on social media
- First check your privacy settings. You don’t have to delete stuff from your accounts if you’re careful on what’s set to display publicly. Test it in a private browser to see what others will see.
- Look at your last year’s of posts. What’s the general theme that you see? If it’s all photos of drunken happy hours and parties — even if everyone is having a good time — what message is that sending? Being a party animal won’t get you rejected from bschool, but it may raise eyebrows if all the shots are of you doing shots with your bros.
- If you hold strong political views, have you been civil in how you have discussed them with others? It’s not necessary to change those views or pretend that you don’t hold them (heck, that sort of topic may even serve you well in an essay!!). What we’re asking you to examine is the nature and tone of the discourse. You don’t have to come across as “nice” (whatever that is) but if your interactions with others seem mean, well, that’s not a warm-fuzzy for your adcom to experience.
Are you into video games? Even very violent ones? That’s fine. You don’t have to scrub that from social media.
Are you an activist? On the left- or the right-wing? That’s fine. You don’t have to change that.
Have you called a politician an idiot? That’s fine; most people would probably use that term to describe some politician or another these days.
Have you called them a pig? Or a slut or a whore? That’s starting to be less fine. Sure, there’s such a thing as free speech and all, but those terms are not necessary to express your political opinion.
If you’ve ever used any racial or ethnic slurs, or if you have a habit of casually applying homophobic or misogynist labels on people, then that’s not going to endear you to the adcoms.
This is what we mean by “personal hygiene.” Are you making it easy for others to be around you?
Again, we will reiterate: It’s totally acceptable to have strong views. Photos of your best friend’s wedding where you got royally hammered are no problem. Post after post expressing your rabid obsession with the Oakland Raiders (gah! moving to Las Vegas?!?? how could they!) is fine. Sharing who you are with the world is, in fact, OK. You can be a gun enthusiast, or into the goth scene, or you moved to Colorado in 2014 because they (ahem) changed certain laws. Or heck, you can even collect coins, or crystals! We’re not telling you to be someone you’re not.
We’re simply calling attention to how you might be perceived, if your standards of civility have lowered in this era of uncivil society. If you have a habit of expressing your views in ways that are caustic, or very accusatory, or that get too personal, then that may not be such a positive for others to see.
And going forward, remember: Social media lives forever. Once you put it out there, the internet takes it. You lose ownership. Even deleted posts are often discoverable by a motivated googler. Think twice before posting, Brave Supplicant.
You may also be interested in:
- Applying to bschool? The Strategy of Authenticity
- No whitewashing
- Quick Tip for managing your MBA applications this year
UPDATE 6/5/17: Harvard College withdraws 10 acceptances based on comments in online chat – yes there are consequences to being a dumbsh!t online.