Q: Are college admissions people really going to judge me on the type of e-mail address I have?
A: Yes! Often little things in a college application can create an impression, and it might not be the kind of impression you ought to give. Your e-mail address is one of these. An address you set up for yourself when you were 10 or 12 might be perceived as childish, such as: carebear26@gmail.
Likewise, e-mail addresses that reflect a devotion to any one band or TV show will also create an impression that could color a reader's impression of you. Avoid such monikers as "9inchnails@yahoo" or "jerseyshoregirl@hotmail." Clearly you shouldn't have any address that refers to sex, violence, politics or religion.
And no, you will not win points if your address reflects a devotion to a college's team, e.g. "DukeBlueDevilsRule@yahoo" -- this falls into the category of "trying too hard."
The best thing to do is keep it simple: use your name only. If you have a name that is likely to be duplicated (such as "Jennifer Smith"), use your name plus a code number such as your birthday.
A few words about social media, which are becoming increasingly significant in the world of admissions:
• Guard your passwords carefully; if you let a friend "borrow" yours, your privacy is compromised
• Do not use the same password for every site; this makes it too easy for hackers to get into all of your accounts
• Change your passwords frequently
• Check your "privacy" settings on social networking accounts to make sure that strangers cannot read your innermost thoughts (It's probably best not to put your innermost thoughts on the Internet anyway!)
• Be especially careful when opening your accounts in a public place, such as a library; always be sure to log out before you leave
• If you get an e-mail from someone you don't know, be cautious -- look at the subject line very carefully; it might be better simply to mark as spam or delete
• If you get an e-mail from someone you do know, but there is no message other than to "click on this link" -- don't open it; your friend's e-mail has probably been hacked
The Internet is a wonderful tool -- but students, parents, and faculty need to use it safely and know its limits. More on that in my next column.