Ground Control Parenting – Carol Sutton Lewis

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Academics

Are Your Children Looking at College Websites Online? Tell Them Every Click Counts

Do you have a high schooler in the college hunt? Here’s important news from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal: Some colleges are tracking students’ online interaction with their websites and factoring this into their admissions decisions.

Those of you familiar with the college admissions process may have heard that some colleges look at students’ “demonstrated interest”, the steps that an applicant has taken to show interest in the school before and during the application process. Generally, a college looking for demonstrated interest looks at whether the student has visited the campus, gone on a tour, scheduled an interview, or sent a thank you note after the interview (yes, it helps). The theory being that the more demonstrated interest a student shows, the more likely it is that they would actually attend the school, an important factor in deciding whom to admit in this highly competitive market. (Colleges are laser focused on their yields–who actually attends–as this can impact their reputation and future enrollment.)

Now we learn that some colleges are digging deeper. They are tracking how early in the process the students go onto their website, how much time they spend on it, how soon they open an email from the school, whether they RSVP online to an event, and whether or not they showed up. At Seton Hall University, for example, each student receives a score for their demonstrated interest based upon a number of variables including those mentioned above. Quinnipiac University, Dickinson College and Boston University also acknowledge tracking prospective students’ online activity on their sites.

And as the article notes, many students have no idea of the extent to which they are being tracked. While privacy experts are concerned about possible violations, independent college counselors are more focused on warning students about this trend. One counselor advises students to assume that their web traffic is being monitored, and “to open every email from a college as if it were homework”.

Just when we thought we had heard everything about college admissions, along comes this new nugget of info to worry us all. GCP‘s advice? We are with the college counselor: Don’t stress, remind your children to hop on websites early and assume Big College Brother is watching, bug them to open all college emails immediately and promptly send thank you notes for interviews. Last but not least, take heart in the knowledge that this process has an end and college awaits!

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