Fall is college application season, and while most parents and teens are focused on getting into their top-choice schools, there’s something else to consider — protecting your personal information when submitting college applications online.
There’s a wealth of personal information sent online to school networks this time of year, including the following:
- An application fee, which requires credit card or bank account information.
- A new account login, requiring your child’s first and last name, email address, username and password selection.
- Transcripts with school information, along with your child’s name, address, grades, GPA, courses taken and extracurricular activities.
- A personal statement and answers to application questions, which provide context and personal details to help students stand out to admissions staff.
While all of this information is required to apply to college, there are steps you and your child can take to ensure personal and financial data do not become vulnerable to fraud or identity theft.
1. Avoid public Wi-Fi and shared computers. Instead of using a shared computer at your school or library, or logging onto a public network at your local coffee shop, opt for a personal computer and a secure private Wi-Fi connection when submitting your college applications online.
2. Make sure the website is secure. Confirm that there’s a lock symbol or “https” in the URL. This shows that the website you’re using takes extra precautions to keep information private. This is especially important when submitting an application fee, to help protect you from credit card theft.
3. Create strong passwords. When students apply online, they may be asked to create a username and password for the university’s website. Develop a strong password for the site to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the account. Students should be careful not to create a password from information that can be found in their personal statements or application questions.
4. Keep track of applications. Students should keep a list of where they applied and when. Consider keeping an updated spreadsheet with school names, websites, fees, application deadlines and a record of any correspondence. It’s a great way to stay organized, plus you’ll be able to cross-reference your application and payment history easily in the event of an unauthorized credit card or bank charge.
When applying to college, sending personal and financial information over the internet is inevitable. Keep your data safe from financial fraud and identity theft, and help ensure that the only student receiving a college acceptance letter based on their application is your own.