Admissions Office signs on to Zinch

Trumpeting the mantra “I am more than a test score,” the new Web site Zinch.com targets high school students worldwide who are more interested in sharpening their creative abilities than their Number Two pencils — and Yale is interested.

The Admissions Office is finalizing a decision to try out the site, which allows college admissions officers to view profiles created by high school students that showcase their personalities, educational achievements and extracurricular activities. Zinch founder and CEO Mick Hagen, a junior at Princeton University, said the site targets students who did not take the PSATs or did not perform well enough on the test to qualify for colleges’ early recruitment efforts.

Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Yale will only take advantage of the Zinch service that permits high school students to give a “shout out” to colleges that interest them. Yale will respond with an e-mail including instructions on how to visit the admissions Web site and add themselves to the mailing list.

“We do not plan to use Zinch profiles as part of our admissions process, and Zinch student members who wish to become applicants will need to fill out the same applications and provide the same information as any other applicant,” Brenzel said. “We use only those materials to evaluate applicants.”

But he said the office will remain open to the idea of expanding its involvement in Zinch in the future.

“As Zinch continues to develop, we will continue to review whether and how we would want to continue participating,” Brenzel said.

More than 180,000 high school students from all 50 states and over 20 countries have set up profiles on Zinch, which was launched in April, Hagen said. Over 230 colleges have entered into agreements to use Zinch in some way. Among these schools are a number of public universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford, Rice and Tufts universities.

“Yale epitomizes the type of university we want using our service — a university that embraces innovation, cutting edge technology and progress,” Hagen said in an e-mail. “Today’s high school student lives online. By testing the Zinch service, Yale once again demonstrates that they’re willing to adapt and respond to the evolving high school student’s needs.”

Tony Wang, a senior at the public Miramonte High School in Orinda, Calif., said he was initially attracted to Zinch because it appealed to his creative side. Wang, who was accepted last week as a Zinch school chapter president, said he believes a weekend spent making music or a work of art is much more valuable in the long run than studying to increase one’s SAT score by 50 points.

“Test scores are important, and you can’t just throw them out of the window,” he said. “But you also have to realize that colleges want you to be someone who has a passion and can contribute to campus life.”

Some college counselors said they were skeptical of whether Zinch will really make a difference for students who do not qualify for the deluge of glossy brochures that colleges heap upon high-performing test-takers.

Tim Haley, college counselor at the private Loyola High School in Los Angeles, said he thinks the plethora of information about colleges and universities on the Internet make it easy for students to learn about options that make sense for them, so a service like Zinch may not be necessary.

“There are kids that can fall through the loopholes, but at the same time the avenues available — like the Internet — mean that you can get the information, although it may take you longer,” Haley said.

But some undergraduates said they appreciated the early connections with colleges and probably would have used Zinch had it been available during their college searches.

Hannah Rochau ’11 said she thinks a Zinch profile could have made her stand out more to admissions officers.

“I definitely feel like it would have given me an edge I wouldn’t have had otherwise, because my high school is definitely not the kind of school that an Ivy League [recruiter] is going to look at and say ‘Wow’,” she said.

Although Hagen discourages comparisons between Zinch and the social networking site Facebook.com, Zinch’s use of personal profiles adds fodder to the ongoing debate about which Internet identities are appropriate for admissions officers to consider when evaluating students. This week, Brown University admissions officers admitted that they sometimes look at applicants’ Facebook profiles, a consideration that has made a difference in at least one admissions decision.

Brenzel said Yale does not consider applicants’ Facebook profiles.

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