Recruiting goes online

Admissions officers will soon be able to view personal profiles of prospective college applicants beginning as early as freshman year of high school, thanks to a new Web site aiming to improve the college recruitment process.

Zinch.com, the brainchild of Princeton University sophomore and Zinch founder and president Mick Hagen, allows high school students to create profiles detailing their educational and extracurricular information as well as their personal stories. Registered college admissions officers may then search or browse the database to find students they are interested in recruiting, or students themselves may alert the colleges through the site. Zinch, which was launched for students two weeks ago, will open for admissions officer registration in June.

Hagen said the site’s main objective is to help students who may be overlooked in the college recruitment process, which typically starts when colleges receive students’ standardized test scores, such as the PSAT. This disadvantages students who do not take standardized tests before their senior years or who do not score high enough to make the cutoff for colleges’ targeting efforts, Hagen said.

“Zinch is allowing high school students to showcase their passions, talents and skills to start getting recruited like that, not by their PSAT scores, but by a more holistic approach,” he said. “They can put themselves on the radar well in advance of the application process.”

Hagen said Zinch profiles are not meant to replace or even supplement formal college applications. Instead, Zinch simply allows students to make themselves known to colleges before the traditional application season, he said.

“Our mantra is ‘I am more than a test score,’” he said. “You shouldn’t base recruiting off a test score because I am more than that.”

Yale Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said admissions officers would have to learn more about Zinch before making any decisions about using the service.

Zinch will be especially helpful to students at large public high schools and admissions officers at small private colleges, Hagen said. Since public high schools often lack resources to help students with test preparation, this population could be well served by having the option to emphasize the rest of their personal histories, he said. Small private colleges have smaller applicant pools and could benefit from the ability to search for a select group of students in the database, he said. Admissions officers may search for students on the site using a number of criteria, including home state, extracurricular activities, leadership positions and grade point average.

Hagen said there is a possibility that students could fabricate information on their profiles, though this concern also applies to information that appears on regular college applications. As a precaution, high school guidance counselors may join the site and are invited to verify the information that their students provide. Over 20,000 students have already created Zinch profiles, he said, and the site will eventually be funded by small subscription fees paid by each participating university.

Some high school counselors said they are unsure of whether Zinch is the best option for their students to use when preparing to apply to college.

Joan Karr, college advisor at the public Acalanes High School in Lafayette, Calif., said she would not recommend the site to her counselees. There are other options available to students who wish to get the attention of colleges in their early high school years, she said.

“You can also be your own voice and be proactive in your own college recruitment process by just e-mailing colleges and asking for information, and by and large you’ll get it,” she said.

Karr said she doubts recruitment efforts are really significant in admissions decisions. While schools target students with high PSAT scores to receive brochures, she said, not all of those students are necessarily qualified to attend. The same principle can be applied to Zinch, she said, since colleges may still use the site to increase their exposure among large numbers of students without considering whether the students are really qualified.

But some Yale students said standardized test scores offer limited information to colleges about potential applicants, so a site like Zinch could improve the process for applicants who fall outside the normal profile of a promising candidate.

Marco Garcia ’09 said the very nature of standardized testing discourages consideration of an individual’s unique talents and personal history.

“The things that you’re tested on in standardized exams like the PSAT don’t actually correlate with what students are actually talented at,” he said “I feel that a lot of students are being left out who aren’t able to fit into that mainstream system, so I guess if colleges start looking at those profiles, they may be able to find out more about students with other qualities to offer.”

Despite the similarity of the site to social networking portals such as Facebook.com, Hagen said, he discourages any comparisons between Zinch and those sites because Zinch profiles are only visible to admissions officers and not other students.

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