Student Success Strategy #5: Choose your image carefully

One of my most memorable students is graduating this year. She was a first-semester freshman when she came into my class, sat in the second row directly in front of me, and had paper and pen on the desk. I didn’t actually notice her more than the other students during our class, although I’m sure she answered a question or two, as did most of the students.

What I remember is what happened after that first day of class. As other students were headed out the door, either talking to each other or simply walking out, she stayed behind. She put her hand out, gave me a firm handshake, and introduced herself to me.

Her poise was impressive, but her action showed me that she had every intention of being known to me as a serious student who would follow through on whatever was necessary. I was not wrong on judging her to be one of my best students, and I have followed her academic career, watching her develop skills that she will take into the business world.

There was one small glitch in her progress. She had applied to be a peer mentor in one of my future classes. I had recommended her, and she had gone through the interview and was on her way to being assigned back to me. Then someone within the organization that chooses, trains, and assigns peer mentors to classes looked at her Facebook page.

There were several photos of her at a party, red Solo cup in her hand. She was laughing, or leaning into a group of students who were smiling at the camera. It was common behavior for college students, and it was also common to post party photos on Facebook.

There was nothing in the photos that was obviously illegal, and there was no allegation that she was drunk. However, the photos screamed “Party Girl” and didn’t convey the image of a responsible student who would set the right example for first-semester freshmen.

She was eliminated from the pool of peer mentors.

She lost a great experiential learning opportunity, and an impressive line on her resume, because of a few Facebook photos.

I’ve used her story as an example to my new classes. While there are ways to protect who sees information on your Facebook pages, it is a warning that future employers are going to Google you, watch your tweets on Twitter, and look for photos and posts on Facebook.

What image are you portraying to your professors and your future employers? Be sure that you are conscious of the choices you are making.

Student Success Strategy #5: Choose your image carefully, maintain it well, and promote yourself for success.

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