High school students are always looking for ways to make the college search and application process easier – and no wonder: even with the Common Application and other online resources, identifying your best-fit schools and preparing appropriate applications for them is a time-consuming job.
Recently we’ve seen several news stories about web sites that say they have one answer to this problem. They offer a kind of ‘match-making’ service whereby colleges can search a database of student profiles for prospective applicants with specific interests or qualities. All a high school student has to do is register for an account, fill out a questionnaire, and then sit back and wait for colleges and universities to come looking for them.
Unfortunately, there are some serious flaws with this model.
One is simply that selective schools don’t have to go looking for applicants this way.
The problem that most colleges and universities have these days is having too many applicants, not too few. Even large state universities are turning away qualified applicants because they don’t have enough room to accommodate everyone who applies. And the small colleges that do want to attract a bigger applicant pool are more likely to reach out to prospects through well-established methods like using SAT mailing lists, developing relationships with individual high schools and school systems, or switching to the Common Application.
Something else to consider here is that for-profit schools will pay websites like these for qualified leads to prospective applicants. State-supported schools don’t have a budget for that, and selective private schools are more likely to use their resources for other kinds of outreach.
Another problem with this model is that it greatly over-simplifies the way that colleges make admissions decisions. According to the descriptions I’ve seen, these databases are meant to help colleges that are looking for applicants meeting a specific profile. But selective schools don’t make admissions decisions that way. They look at applicants holistically. No one gets admitted to a selective school on the basis of a single attribute, be it a SAT score or high school GPA or a demographic profile or a sport or an extracurricular activity. It’s very unlikely that an admissions officer from any school you’d want to enroll at would go online and specifically look for a chess player, a Chinese speaker, an aspiring biomedical engineer, etc.
That over-simplification of the admissions process is the kind of mistake that people who haven’t actually worked in college admissions tend to make. That’s why AdmissionsConsultants only employs consultants who have first-hand admissions committee experience. We wouldn’t entrust a client to anyone who did not have that inside understanding of college and university admissions.
It’s not out of the question that ‘match-making’ websites might develop into a useful tool for college applicants over time. For now, however, their results are probably not worth the 15 minutes it would take to fill out an applicant profile.