In our digital age, our character and reputation are defined beyond the Boy Scout uniform, and beyond our physical actions. The information we share on social media can have either positive or negative real-world effects.
A recent study showed how true this is. A study by Kaplan Test Prep found that 40 percent of college admissions officers visit applicants’ social media pages when considering applications — a number that has quadrupled since 2008. The study found there are several “trigger points” that prompt admissions officers to look into an applicant’s social profiles. Among them are:
- Talents: If the application mentioned a specific interest that piqued the curiosity of school personnel, such as music or poetry, the staff may look to social media to learn more about the student.
- Awards: Some admissions officers want to verify awards received.
- Scholarships: When applying for scholarships, some student can come under greater scrutiny to ensure recipients are “fully deserving.”
- Criminal/Disciplinary Records: Because applicants must mention disciplinary action in their applications, this red flag prompts admissions officers to find more information.
- Anonymous Tips: Occasionally, admissions officers receive tips pointing out “inappropriate behavior,” so they turn to social media to determine whether those tips have merit.
As this study highlights, social media can be used to tell a broader story in college applications … one that can have a significant impact on a young person’s future. As we prepare our Scouts for the road ahead, they must understand how having a high standard of character is just as important online as it is in the “real world.”
The easiest way to we can help Scouts build a positive online footprint is to remind them to ask themselves if the content they post is in keeping with the precepts of the Scout Oath and Law. Just as we remind them to live the Scout Oath and Law in their day-to-day lives, we must ensure their online activity is an extension of such.
To help Scouts navigate the Internet and social media in particular, the BSA offers the Cyber Chip and Social Media Guidelines to help youth learn about internet safety and guide their engagement. Additionally, Chapter 13 of the Boy Scout Handbook focuses on Personal Safety Awareness and offers tips on adhering to the Scout Law while online. You’ll be hearing more from me about the new edition of the Scout Handbook in the days ahead.
Thanks for reading.