Facebook Photos That Make You Look Good

Hand holding image in montage of faces
John Lund / Getty Images

2012 Kaplan survey revealed that 87% of college admissions officers use Facebook to help them recruit students. This doesn't mean that 87% of officers are prying into your profile to get dirt on you, but they are using social media to connect with students and share information. Facebook is an excellent medium for keeping applicants informed of college events and admissions announcements.

That said, Facebook does come with potential risks for college applicants. Some admissions officers do try to get more information on applicants through social media, and in many cases what they find ends up hurting an applicant's chances. In that same Kaplan survey, 35% of admissions officers who looked up students in Facebook or Google found information that made a negative impressions. So before applying to colleges, you'll want to follow these social media tips, and you'll want to make sure you have deleted these bad Facebook photos.

How you use Facebook in the college admissions process is up to you. One line of advice you'll hear is to crank up your privacy settings and keep colleges out. Another option, however, is to clean up your account and invite colleges to view your profile and get to know you better. If handled well, Facebook can strengthen your application by revealing parts of your personality that are difficult to convey in a traditional application.

Photos are one easy way to make yourself look good, and the types of photos in this article can strengthen your image.

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The Gold Medal Winner

Soccer player cheering next to gold trophy
Mike Kemp/Getty Images

For the first image, think about those awards you've won. The medal doesn't need to be gold -- silver, bronze, or brass-coated plastic will also give the folks looking at your pictures the clear sense that you've accomplished something noteworthy. So if you were on the medals podium after that equestrian match or you got a yellow ribbon for best apple pie at the county fair, upload those pictures to your Facebook profile.

This isn't the type of photo you'd want to send to a college -- that would seem painfully self-congratulating -- but the impression is quite different if an admissions officer stumbles across the photo in your Facebook photo album.

Your college applications and future resume will have a space for listing honors and awards. Your Facebook photo gallery can work to reinforce your accomplishments.

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The Star of the Team

Sports Star - Good Facebook Photos
Sports Star - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Every once in a while, Mom or the school photographer captures an amazing image of you shooting the winning basket, stretching into the end-zone, or just clearing the high jump bar. Use these photos to strengthen your Facebook image. Colleges and future employers will respond positively to someone who has physical as well as intellectual talents. Think about what it means to be an accomplished athlete:

  • You are disciplined
  • You are focused
  • You have perseverance
  • You listen to coaches
  • You are fit

And, of course, you are a potential recruit for the college team. Don't post so many sports pictures of yourself that you look narcissistic, but a few shots of your athletic accomplishments will certainly make you look good.

Also, don't shy away from those other sports pictures. You know, the ones where you fell off your horse, tripped over the hurdle, or did a face-plant in the mud on the baseball diamond. These pictures show other positive features of your personality -- your humility, your sense of humor, and your maturity in being able to embrace your gaffs.

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The World Traveler

World Traveler - Good Facebook Photos
World Traveler - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Part of being a well-rounded student is having a worldview that reaches further than your hometown. If you've traveled across the U.S. or visited other countries, put some of those travel pictures in your Facebook profile.

Read the mission statements of colleges, and you'll often see an emphasis on global awareness. Colleges want their graduates to be useful global citizens who recognize the interconnectedness of all the nations and cultures on our little earth.

Use your Facebook photos to show that you will be arriving at college with a certain level of appreciation for different people and places.

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The Artist

The Artist - Good Facebook Photos
The Artist - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

If you have artistic talent but aren't applying to colleges with portfolio admissions processes, you don't have many options for showing off your accomplishments to admissions officers. A Facebook photo gallery can add an artistic dimension to your application. Take flattering photos of your work, and invite admissions officers to peruse them in a Facebook gallery.

Even if you are applying to college for a field totally unrelated to art, your artistic skills will be attractive to a college. They show that you are a person with multiple talents, and your creative abilities will probably find many outlets in college -- designing posters, webpages, theatre sets, social venues, and so on. Also, creative students tend to have strong critical thinking abilities. So even if you plan on being an electrical engineer or sociologist, show off your creative side.

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The Prom Goer

The Formal - Good Facebook Photos
The Formal - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Most of us have those embarrassing photos from the junior prom or cousin Suzy's wedding. You know, the one where you're blushing purple or struggling to pin on that stupid corsage. Nevertheless, those formal pictures add a positive dimension to the image that you can convey through your Facebook photos. For one, they show that you clean up nicely and don't always wear cargo shorts and grubby t-shirts. Dressing well, after all, is often an important part of professional success.

Also, all those admissions officers are real people who went to their own proms and family weddings. Those formal pictures will create a small connection between you and the person reviewing your application.

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The Musician

Musician - Good Facebook Photos
Musician - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Are you a member of the band, choir, or orchestra? Did you start your own rock group? Do you play guitar on street corners? Did you learn how to play the didgeridoo while on student exchange in Australia? If so, post no Facebook those pictures of you performing.

Music, in whatever form, is an attractive extracurricular activity to colleges. Music (like sports) takes practice, diligence, and focus. Also, if you play in an ensemble, you need to have good teamwork skills. And we shouldn't forget that music skills and math skills often go hand-in-hand, so your musical ability is a positive indicator for certain academic abilities.

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The Do-Gooder

Volunteer Work - Good Facebook Photos
Volunteer Work - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Community service and volunteer work have become an important part of applications to the country's most selective colleges. If you raise money for local charities, help out with Habitat for Humanity, take care of pets at the local shelter, or serve food at a soup kitchen, make sure colleges know about your involvement.

A photo of you racing for the cure or painting the local church can bring to life that list of activities on your application. This type of picture shows that you think about people other than yourself, a character trait that every college values.

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The Actor

Actor - Good Facebook Photos
Actor - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Theater is another extracurricular activity that colleges love. Think about all that's involved in performing in a play:

  • understanding and memorizing your lines
  • enduring long hours of practice
  • keeping your concentration and focus
  • working well with a group
  • speaking clearly and forcefully
  • keeping your nerve in front of an audience

Every one of these skills has value in a college setting. Students who can focus, practice, collaborate, and speak clearly in front of a crowd are students who will succeed in college and in their future careers.

So, if you had a role in a theatrical performance at your school, post those pictures in Facebook. Your involvement in theater is a clear plus, and your costume may also get a smile from the admissions officers.

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The Team Player

Team Player - Good Facebook Photos
Team Player - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

That photo of you scoring the winning touchdown or nailing a perfect dive is impressive. Also impressive, however, is the assist you made in volleyball, your perfect synchronization on the cheerleading squad, and the clock-like precision of your crew team. Keep in mind that a college campus filled with nothing but superstars would be a pretty annoying place to live and learn.

Those photos of you participating on a team show to college admissions officers that you know how to place the group before the individual. And it should be a rather obvious point that colleges want to admit students who play well with others.

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The Mentor

Mentor - Good Facebook Photos
Mentor - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Have you taught summer camp? Do you read to young kids after school? Have you had any role that involves teaching or mentoring younger kids? If so, try to capture your activities in your Facebook photo gallery.

Leadership ability is a quality that all colleges look for in applicants, and your work as a mentor or teacher reveals an admirable type of leadership. Extrapolating from your work in high school, admissions officers might picture you as a college peer leader, writing center tutor, residential advisor, or lab assistant.

The purpose of your extracurricular activities in high school isn't simply to fill up space on your college application. College admissions officers will be looking for meaningful activities that will bring value to their campus community. Your work as a mentor does just that.

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The Leader

Leadership - Good Facebook Photos
Leadership - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

To continue with the leadership theme, are you captain of a team or club? Did you lead your debate team or Model U.N. team to victory? Did you head up a fundraiser at your school or church? Did your organize a political group in your community? Were you section leader in the marching band?

If you've had any leadership role in high school (and try to think about leadership in broad terms), try to include a few photos in your Facebook profile. Your leadership skills will have great value in college and in your future career. College admissions officers want to know about your accomplishments on this front.

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The Outdoorsman (or Woman)

Outdoor Activities - Good Facebook Photos
Outdoor Activities - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

If you're a nature lover, let your Facebook photos illustrate your passion. Your fondness for the great outdoors will be attractive to colleges on multiple levels. Many colleges have outing clubs, ski clubs, hiking groups, and other student organizations. Colleges would much rather enroll students who take part in these healthy activities than students who spend their days slumped in front of computers and televisions.

Also, colleges will be glad to find students with interest in the environment. Sustainability is a big issue on most college campuses, and many schools are working hard to lessen their environmental impact. If your love of the outdoors translates into a desire to preserve our environment, make sure colleges know this.

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The Science Geek

Scientist - Good Facebook Photos
Scientist - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Disclaimer: This advice comes from a big science geek. Bias is possible, and being a science geek may not be as cool as I think it is...

If your idea of fun is building a computer from a bucket of sand, three lemons, a coat hanger, duck tape and a copy of Great Expectations, colleges want to know this. Not everyone is an award-winning flautist or champion softball player. Achievement in math and science is remarkably impressive, so be sure to flaunt your geekiness.

Flesh out your Facebook photo album with those pictures of the battle-bot competition, the model rocket launch, and the Mathletes championship. A healthy college community has musicians, artist, athletes, teachers, and scientists. Whatever your passion is, use Facebook to illustrate it.

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The Good Sibling

Siblings - Good Facebook Photos
Siblings - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Chances are you have hundreds of these photos -- swimming at the lake with sis, Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family, the summer camping trip with your cousins, posing with your brother at his graduation...

Now it is true that an album with 1,300 of these pictures will try the patience of anyone, especially a college admissions officer who doesn't really know you. However, a few carefully chosen family photos can serve a valuable function. For one, students with healthy family relationships have a valuable support network as they make the transition to college.

Also, that picture of you hugging your brother (rather than giving him a black eye) suggests that you might just be able to get along with a roommate (rather than giving him a black eye). Colleges would much rather enroll students who can manage interpersonal relationships than students who are withdrawn, pouty, and morose.

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The Fan

Fan - Good Facebook Photos
Fan - Good Facebook Photos. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Our final good Facebook photo shows you at a game supporting your school team or cheering on your classmates in a competition. Perhaps you are wearing a school jacket. It's possible you painted your face purple. You might just be looking a bit giddy and goofy with your friends. I think I see a kazoo in the lower right corner of your photo.

This is school spirit at its best, and it's a good image for college admissions officers to see. Colleges want to enroll students who are spirited, and they want students who will be loyal to the school. They want students who will attend games and competitions and cheer on their peers. A healthy campus is full of this kind of energy, so be sure to capture your school spirit in your Facebook photos.

The common theme of all of these photos is that they capture parts of your interests and personality that will be of value to a college. The list could obviously be longer, but the general idea should be clear.

For the flip side of the equation, make sure you delete these photos from your Facebook account. They could torpedo your application.

Special thanks to Laura Reyome who illustrated this article. Laura is a graduate of Alfred University.