Schools help students scrub their digital footprint

“It’s becoming more and more important for students to be aware of and able to manage their online presence,” said Mike Cahill, Syracuse’s career services director.

Samantha Grossman wasn’t always thrilled with the impression that emerged when people Googled her name.

“It wasn’t anything too horrible,” she said. “I just have a common name. There would be pictures, college partying pictures, that weren’t of me, things I wouldn’t want associated with me.”

So before she graduated from Syracuse University last spring, the school provided her with a tool that allowed her to put her best digital footprint forward. Now when people Google her, they go straight to a positive image—professional photo, cum laude degree, and credentials—that she credits with helping her land a digital advertising job in New York.

“I wanted to make sure people would find the actual me and not these other people,” she said.

Syracuse, Rochester, and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore are among the universities that offer such online tools to their students free of charge, realizing that ill-considered web profiles of drunken frat parties, prank videos, and worse can doom graduates to a lifetime of unemployment—even if the pages are somebody else’s with the same name.

It’s a growing trend based on studies showing that most employers Google prospective hires, and nearly all of them won’t bother to go past the first page of results. The online tools don’t eliminate the embarrassing material; they just put the graduate’s most flattering, professional digital footprint front and center.

(Next page: How these services work)

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