Facebook ventures into college admissions

While Yalies put last-minute touches on their Halloween costumes this week, high school seniors are facing a more daunting task: finishing up their early applications to college.

A new Facebook application named College Planner — introduced last week by the educational services company Embark — aims to relieve some of that stress and streamline the admissions process for students applying to undergraduate and graduate institutions by offering a network of fellow applicants, a research database of over 5,000 school profiles and online applications for some of the universities, Embark President Adam Park said in an interview.

Park said College Planner can increase a university’s exposure to potential applicants, but Yale Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Yale College has “no immediate plans to undertake a relationship” with Embark.

“We are confident that Yale is widely known to high-achieving students and that our participation in the Common Application makes it very easy for students to apply,” Brenzel said.

Park said the site brings the resources of Embark.com, the second most popular educational Web site after the College Board, to Facebook’s 49 million users. The University has an online profile created by Embark officials, but students cannot use College Planner to apply to Yale College.

It is now possible to apply online directly to 39 undergraduate institutions — including New York University, the University of Michigan and Emory University — through Embark’s Facebook application. The roughly 2,000 College Planner users can also access auto-filled PDF versions of applications to 229 colleges, including those at Princeton and Columbia universities.

Undergraduates can also apply to 108 graduate schools through Embark, including Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Business School, Harvard University JFK School of Government and Princeton University. Users cannot apply to Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, but they can apply to the School of Music.

As of Monday night, 37 undergraduates using the application listed an interest in applying to Yale. The University has the highest number of interested users among New England universities.

Many Facebook users interviewed said the Embark College Planner is among the most useful of Facebook’s 5,000 applications, which range from mechanisms for virtual food fights to Hogwarts house-sorting.

Through the College Planner, Facebook users can access school profiles and search for schools based on specific criteria such as school size and location. Students can also view the schools their friends are applying to and the schools students with similar interests are considering.

The application also features its own wall, giving students the opportunity to advise and communicate with one another about the college process.

Park said these social aspects of College Planner provide students with a sense of community at one of life’s most stressful moments.

“The Embark College Planner meets a real need that is out there,” Park said. “It lets people know that they are not going through the college process alone.”

Christian Crocker, a senior at Dorman High in South Carolina, said he added the application in an effort to meet and interact with students who are applying to the same schools he is.

“I am hopefully going to an out-of-state school, and this application could be a tool for me to make friends before I get there — not only to avoid the awkwardness of the ‘first day’ but also to make the process of entering the college atmosphere as easy as possible,” Crocker said in an e-mail.

But several high school students interviewed said they would not add the application.

Sejan Miah, a senior at Bronx High School of Science in New York City, said he is not interested in College Planner because his college counselor already meets his needs.

Students who do not have access to strong college counseling programs also might not benefit directly from the application, said Natalie Henderson LAW ’09, who leads a weekly section of a college mentoring program at Cooperative Arts High School in New Haven.

“Many students at Co-op don’t have access to computers at home, and they couldn’t search for colleges using the Web site because they don’t know how to answer questions about what they want in their college experience,” Henderson said.

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