Applying to College? Facebook Photos You Should Delete Now

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I Got a Fake ID!

Facebook image of a drunk underage student
Facebook image of a drunk underage student. Drawing by Laura Reyome

More and more, college admissions officers are going to the web to get additional information about their applicants. As a result, your online image can be the difference between a rejection and acceptance letter. The photos illustrated in this article are ones that probably shouldn't be part of your online image when you are applying for college.

I begin with one of the most common examples of inappropriate images found on Facebook, and other social networking sites.

Nearly every college campus in the country has an underage drinking problem. So that photo of you with a beer in hand on your 18th birthday? Get rid of it. Colleges have their hands full trying to deal with drinking problems on campus, so why would they want to admit students who provide photo evidence of their underage drinking?

Also, do you have your birth date posted on Facebook? Obviously, lots of underage students drink, but you're showing really poor judgment if you document illegal behavior in such a concrete way.

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Pass the Joint, Please

Facebook image of a girl getting stoned
Facebook image of a girl getting stoned. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Even more problematic than photos of underage drinking are photos of illegal drug use. So that picture of you with a joint, bong, or hookah? Put it in the trash bin. Any photo that looks like someone is lighting up a doobie, dropping acid, or tripping on shrooms should be no part of your web image.

Even if you aren't actually doing drugs, colleges are likely to be concerned if they see pictures of you with friends who are. Also, if that hookah or rolled cigarette holds nothing but tobacco, or it's powdered sugar you're snorting, the person who views the photo is likely to draw a different conclusion.

No college is going to admit a student who they think is a drug user. A college doesn't want the liability, and they don't want a campus culture of drug use.

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Let Me Show You What I Think...

Facebook image of an obscene gesture
Facebook image of an obscene gesture. Drawing by Laura Reyome

There's nothing illegal about giving someone the bird or doing something obscene with a couple fingers and your tongue. But is this really the image of yourself that you think will get you into college? The photo may be funny to you and your close friends, but it could very well be offensive to the admissions officer who is investigating your online image.

If in doubt, imagine your sweet great aunt Chastity looking at the photo. Would she approve?

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I Got Away With It!

Facebook image of a law breaker
Facebook image of a law breaker. Drawing by Laura Reyome

It may have been exciting when you strolled onto private property, fished in a no-fishing area, drove 100 mph, or climbed the tower for those high-tension powerlines. At the same time, if you post photo evidence of such behavior you're showing remarkably bad judgment. Some college admissions officers will be unimpressed by your disregard for the law. More will be unimpressed by your decision to photo-document the law breaking.

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Drink, Drink, Drink!

Facebook image of beer pong
Facebook image of beer pong. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Beer pong and other drinking games are remarkably popular on college campuses. This doesn't mean that the admissions officers want to enroll students who illustrate that their primary source of amusement involves alcohol. And don't be fooled -- those big red party cups may not say "beer" on them, but anyone who works at a college has a pretty good idea about what's being consumed.

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Look, No Tan Lines!

Facebook image of a girl flashing
Facebook image of a girl flashing. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Facebook is likely to remove any pictures that show nudity, but you should still think twice about showing pictures with lots of skin. If you went a little crazy during spring break or at Mardi Gras, or if you have some pictures of you sporting the latest micro-bikini or glued-on Speedo briefs, photos of all that skin are a bad idea when you're applying to college. Also, not everyone wants to see the tattoo on your left buttock. You never know what the comfort level is of the person who is evaluating your application.

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I Hate You

Facebook image of prejudice
Facebook image of prejudice. Drawing by Laura Reyome

It's easy to learn a lot about students' prejudices from their facebook accounts. If you belong to a group called "I hate ____________," think about unjoining if the object of hatred is any group of people. Nearly all colleges are trying to create a diverse and tolerant campus community. If you're advertising your hatred of people based on their age, weight, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, a college is likely to take a pass on your application. Any photos that reveal prejudices should obviously be removed.

On the flip side, you should freely advertise your hatred of cancer, pollution, torture, and poverty.

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My Stupid Family

Facebook image of questionable photo albums
Facebook image of questionable photo albums. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Remember that the people investigating your online image will not understand your inside jokes or ironic tone, nor will they know the context of your photos. Photo albums titled "I Hate Babies," "My School is Full of Losers," or "My Brother is a Moron" can easily strike the wrong chord with a stranger who stumbles across them. The admissions folks would rather see a student who reveals a generosity of spirit, not a cutting and dismissive personality.

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I Shot Bambi

Facebook image of a hunter
Facebook image of a hunter. Drawing by Laura Reyome

This topic is a bit fuzzier than something like illegal behavior. However, if your favorite pastime involves clubbing baby seals to death in northern Canada, hunting whales for "research" purposes on a Japanese ship, marketing fur coats, or even advocating for a particular side of a hot-button political issue, you should think carefully about posting photos of your activities. I won't say you shouldn't post such photos, but they can have consequences.

Ideally, the people reading your application are open-minded and will value your passions even when quite different from their own. Admissions officers are human, however, and their own biases can easily enter the process when they are confronted with something that is highly controversial or provocative.

Make sure you are being deliberate and thoughtful when you present images related to controversial issues.

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Get a Room!

Facebook image of PDA
Facebook image of PDA. Drawing by Laura Reyome

A photo showing a peck on the cheek isn't anything to worry about, but not all admissions officers are going to appreciate pictures of you groping and grinding with your significant other. If the photo shows behavior that you wouldn't want your parents or minister to see, you probably don't want a college admissions office to see it either.

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The Blue House on the Right

Facebook image of a driver's license
Facebook image of a driver's license. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Identity theft is rampant these days, and the news is also filled with stories of people who have been victimized by online stalkers. As a result, you're showing bad judgment (and endangering yourself) if your Facebook account gives others explicit information about where they can find you. If you want your friends to have your address and phone number, give it to them. But not everyone trolling the internet is your friend. Colleges won't be impressed by your naivete if you present lots of personal information online.

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Look, I'm Wasted!

Facebook image of a drunk guy vomiting
Facebook image of a drunk guy vomiting. Drawing by Laura Reyome

Talk to anyone who works in Student Affairs at a college, and they'll tell you the worst part of the job is that late-night trip to the emergency room with a student who has passed out from excessive drinking. From a college's perspective, there's nothing funny about it. Your friends may get a chuckle out of that picture of you hugging the porcelain throne, but a college official is going to think about the students who have died from alcohol poisoning, been raped while passed out, or choked to death on their own vomit.

Your application could easily end up on the rejection pile if a college admissions officer comes across a photo that shows you or your friends passed out, puking, or staring into space in glassy-eyed wonder.

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

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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "Applying to College? Facebook Photos You Should Delete Now." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Grove, Allen. (2020, August 27). Applying to College? Facebook Photos You Should Delete Now. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Applying to College? Facebook Photos You Should Delete Now." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).