What Comes Up In Your Student's Google Search, And How It Might Be Hurting Them (5th-12th Grade Student & Parent Course)

Learn how to search for yourself on Google, how colleges will use Google to supplement applications, and how to find deleted apps on a smartphone.

What Comes Up In Your Student's Google Search, And How It Might Be Hurting Them (5th-12th Grade Student & Parent Course)

September 23, 2021
Parent & Student Training

Table of Contents

Why it’s important for students & parents to monitor their digital footprint together

As a student, are you aware of the ways that colleges will search for you online? When you apply to college or a job, it is very likely the hiring manager will go on the internet and search for you. They want a complete picture of who you are.

Everyone has a digital footprint online

  • Even students who don’t use social media have a digital footprint
  • People with similar names, or profiles made by someone else under a student’s name, all add to that student’s digital footprint

What does a digital footprint include?

  • Every social media profile you’ve ever created (even if you think it’s private)
  • Every comment or picture you’ve posted or been mentioned in
  • Online discussions you’ve participated in/online groups you’ve joined
  • Posts from other people who have a similar name to yours
  • Your online footprint exists even if you’re not on TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
  • You can find your online footprint by searching for your name on Google and going through the first five pages of your results

Why do colleges care?

  • Colleges are often looking for applicants who have a positive online reputation on social media
  • Students are an extension of their school’s brand and colleges are researching to ensure that their students portray the school in a positive way online

How to monitor your digital footprint

  • Use the same tool colleges and employers will use to search for you
  • This is important to do, even if you’re not online
  • Launch or download Google Chrome and open up a new window in “incognito mode”
  • Watch our next video to learn exactly how you can search for yourself online (and see what colleges/employers might find)

How colleges & internships search for students online

Do colleges and employers actually look up applicants online?

  • While colleges and employers may appreciate the impressive information contained in your resume, and the way you present yourself when you’re in “professional mode”, they also know they’ll get a more complete picture if they look beyond your resume and interview.
  • To find out more about the “real” you, they’re turning to the Internet. This is why you need to stay one step ahead by presenting yourself in the best possible light online.

How colleges search for you

Start with Google in “Incognito Mode”

  • First Name + Last Name
  • Josh Ochs
  • “First Name + Last Name” (in quotes)
  • “Josh Ochs”
  • “First + Last” + City
  • “Josh Ochs” Santa Monica
  • “First + Last” + School
  • “Josh Ochs” Santa Monica High School
  • First, Middle, and Last Name
  • Josh Keith Ochs
  • Social Media Usernames
  • @JoshOchs
  • Image Results

Do you feel comfortable sending colleges your social media usernames?

  • Ensure that you feel comfortable sending colleges your social media usernames by using social media to tell your story in a positive way.
  • Openly giving your social media handles on your college application shows the school that you are proud of who you are, even at night and on the weekends.
  • Colleges want to see who you are off campus, and it’s never too early to start building this story online. Middle school is a great time to start thinking about how your digital footprint can impact your chances at getting into your dream school.
  • Be online and be positive, because colleges, internship coordinators, and employers are going to ask for your information so they can fact-check. It’s better to be upfront and show that you have nothing to hide.
  • Understanding the way that colleges search for you online gives you the opportunity to create a plan and post positive content for them to find.

How to see your online results as others see them

Now that you understand that employers and colleges can (and will) go online to find out more about who you are as a person, here are a few do’s and don’ts about checking your own results. Internet searches might produce different results about you than you might expect. But you can take steps to control those results.

Don’t: Check your online footprint once and then forget about it. Your online results probably aren’t changing dramatically every day. However, a new post made public by you or someone else, or a change in the way search engines decide to rank your results, can make all the difference in affecting your prospects. We recommend checking your online footprint at least once a month (and in certain cases, once a week).

Do: Try different name and keyword combinations. Most people are surprised to see how easy it is to find information about themselves if they go beyond their first and last name. Use the search term combinations above to get a better picture of your digital footprint.

Don’t: View your footprint through your eyes only. People look at their search engine results and don’t notice anything unusual because they understand the context of everything they’re looking at. But will everyone else? What about that quirky Facebook club you started five years ago and forgot about after a week? It’s still on your profile, and potential employers may not get the joke. What about all those party pics a friend recently dug up and posted, with mentions of you holding one of those ubiquitous red plastic cups? How would an employer know if those were from years ago and not last night?

Do: Ask a trusted friend or colleague to go through your profile with you and give you honest feedback. They will probably have lots of questions about what they’re seeing, which can give you a much better idea of what your digital profile is telling your future college or employer. When they ask questions or make comments, be sure to write them down and listen. Try not to get defensive. Their honest feedback will give you insight into the mind of a college (or employer) as to what others think about your “digital first impression.”

Having a positive digital footprint isn’t something you achieve once and cross off the list. It’s an ongoing process. You always have to stay on top of it. That way, you’ll welcome people searching for you online and remain confident that they’ll find the most positive, interesting, and genuine aspects of your life that you’ve worked hard to cultivate.

How to find old social media accounts that might be hurting your online image

It’s not uncommon to create social media profiles only to forget about them later on. Maybe you wanted to try a new app but ended up deleting it later. What most people don’t know is - these old social media profiles can have a negative effect on their online footprint. To build a positive online reputation, it’s important to find all old social media accounts.

What are old social media accounts?

  • Old social media accounts are social media profiles you no longer update
  • Deleting apps doesn’t automatically delete your accounts on the apps
  • Old social media profiles can also include any accounts you made anonymously, especially if they’re tied to your email address or phone number

Why should students care?

Social media accounts usually require personal information upon activation. If there was a data breach on that social media platform, then your personal information could easily be leaked. This can hurt other profiles too if you’ve used the same password across platforms.

Why colleges & employers care

  • When colleges and employers look you up online, they want to get a better idea of who you are as an applicant. If old social media accounts are discoverable, it can make it hard for them to determine which accounts you are actively using
  • If your old social media accounts have negative posts or aren’t a positive representation of who you are - they can impact your chances of being accepted into your dream school or landing your dream job

How to find old accounts on social media using Google

We recommend using the Chrome browser to search for your old accounts. Open a new incognito window and search the queries below, in Google:

  • Search for your username
  • Example: @JoshOchs

  • Look up your email address
  • Example: Josh@gmail.com

  • Search for your first and last name
  • Example: Josh Ochs

  • Use your nicknames
  • Example: Joshua Ochs

  • Add networks to the end of your search
  • Example: Josh Ochs Facebook

  • Don’t forget to check the Google image results tab

Example of how old social media accounts can be negative

  • According to a new report, turning down young job candidates because of what they post on social media has become commonplace. Even if it’s an old social media account, employers and colleges will assume that’s you (and they have no idea when you created it)
  • The report, by On Device Research, states that 1 in 10 people between ages 16 and 34 have been turned down for a new job because of photos or comments on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networking sites

How to find all deleted apps on a smartphone

How to find deleted apps on your student's phone

Are you concerned about your kid's online activities? It’s critical to know which apps should be avoided. Once you’ve decided a certain app is off-limits, then what?In this video, Josh Ochs explains how teens sometimes hide apps on their phones. Watch to learn a few simple steps you can take to find out if your teen is using apps they don't want you to know about.

Apps can have a negative impact on your future

  • Inappropriate activity on any app can have a negative impact on a student’s college and career opportunities
  • However, some students feel like they can act out on certain apps because it’s anonymous or the content disappears over time

Why should students care?

  • Using apps to hide your social media activity might mean you are engaging in behaviors that could hurt your digital footprint
  • Would you want your hidden activity to be found by your dream school or future employer?
  • Everything you post on social media or send in messages can be discovered online- even if you use apps that claim to delete your post after a set amount of time (like Snapchat or Instagram stories)

Why should parents care?

  • Some kids might think they can use certain apps to engage in negative activities because that activity won’t show up on their parent’s phone bill
  • Using these apps can be dangerous and put your child at risk of encountering predators
  • It’s important to monitor every app your children download

What could go wrong?

According to a recent ABC News report, some child predators try to engage with your child by using hidden apps. They could say, “hey, download this app. We can communicate that way. No one ever has to know.”

How to find all deleted apps on an iPhone

  • On your child’s phone, open the App Store
  • In the upper right corner, click on the user’s headshot/profile
  • Select “Purchased” (and then maybe “my purchases”)
  • This is where you can access and review every app your student has ever downloaded (and which ones they have deleted)

The iTunes Store never forgets

A quick check of the iTunes store can be another great source of information about your student's app usage. Just run a quick search for the app you’re concerned about and see what icon appears to the right.

  • If you see an icon that says “Get,” the app has never been downloaded—just as you hoped
  • But if the icon reads “Open,” then that app is already installed
  • If the app icon shows a cloud, it means the app has been downloaded by the phone owner, but then deleted and is ready to be downloaded again
  • For many parents, knowing that an off-limits app was ever downloaded is a good reason to open a dialog about their concerns and/or rules regarding the app

How to find all deleted apps on an Android phone

  • On your child’s phone, open the Google Play Store. Ensure you are on the homepage
  • Select the 3 line icon next to the search bar in the top left of the screen
  • Click on My Apps & Games from the menu
  • Select the Library tab to the right
  • This is where you can access and review every app your student has ever downloaded

Are you ready to Shine Online?

The SmartSocial.com Student Branding Academy breaks it all down into six digestible lessons.  Students will start by learning why it is important to know what their Google search shows and how to search like colleges or employers. 

Josh walks students step-by-step through planning their online identity to building their own online portfolio that is discoverable on Google. Visit SmartSocial.com/sba for more information!


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