Colleges and universities across the country are attempting to increase transparency about the admissions process through public blogs and casual postings on popular admissions-related forums, but Yale officials currently have no plans to follow suit.
In recent years, the increasingly intense college search process has given rise to online forums in which college-bound seniors swap advice, statistics, and stories in order to increase their chances of acceptance to top-tier schools. Now, some colleges are bringing information to the students in the form of behind-the-scenes blogs and message boards that offer a revealing look at what goes on inside America’s most selective admissions offices.
Daniel Creasy, an admissions officer at Johns Hopkins University and manager of JHU’s admissions blog Hopkins Insider, said the university set up the blog in order to correspond more directly and clearly with applicants.
“The best way to communicate with students is to communicate the way they communicate,” Creasy said. “This [blog] was the next progression of communication.”
The Hopkins Insider features student and staff blogs, photos of the admissions office and an option for applicants to post comments.
Yale presently has no definite plans to establish an online admissions blog or moderated message board. While Director of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Yale is “considering” an admissions blog, the University has not yet determined whether such a blog would be “truly useful.”
Creasy said one motivation for the creation of the Hopkins blog was misinformation found in online forums like CollegeConfidential.com. The site, which allows college-bound seniors to offer advice to each other and speculate on the college admissions chances of their peers, has grown rapidly in popularity since its creation in 2001.
Roger Dooley, one of the site’s founders, said the it began as a response to the “dearth of information” about the college admissions process. According to Dooley, the site provides a service often unavailable to high-achieving applicants coming from schools with little or no experience with competitive college admissions.
“It’s very common for an excellent student in a school without a lot of applicants to very selective colleges to find that teachers and even counselors may not be able to provide good feedback,” Dooley said.
While Yale does not maintain its own blog, the admissions office does keep tabs on College Confidential’s forum traffic to observe discussion about Yale, Brenzel said.
“We occasionally review online discussions of admissions to better understand how applicants are feeling about the process, but we do not post to the online forums,” he said.
Creasy noted the ability of a site like College Confidential to build community and distribute information, but said students should take their online peers’ opinions with a grain of salt.
Rhody Davis, college counselor at the Latin School of Chicago and former admissions official at the University of Chicago, said she also has found that the information on the sites can be misleading.
“I used to read those [forums] now and then, and there was bad information in some of those chat rooms,” Davis said. “I encourage students to check on the source of the information.”
Dooley said that while some of College Confidential’s users may offer incorrect information, this can happen in almost any online setting.
Yalies expressed mixed opinions about the site. While many said it offers another perspective on the admissions process, others were less enthusiastic. Johnny Cantalino ’10 said College Confidential’s greatest strength — and its weakness — is the volume of opinions posted.
“There was good advice on the site, but the students had so many varying opinions that it was hard to really grasp,” he said.
Cantalino also recalled that forums such as “What Are My Chances?” were discouraging.
“I felt like I had no chance at getting into any of the schools I applied to after looking at that site,” he said.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology runs its own blog that was formed to correct misconceptions prevalent on College Confidential and other sites, said Ben Jones, director of communications for the school’s admissions office. But MIT also sees the blog as a way to increase admissions transparency and move past the media’s narrow, ranked view of college admissions, he said.
“So much of college admissions is about matching,” Jones said. “With all these surveys and rankings, you find students going to schools that aren’t the best fit for them.”