In the highly competitive race to get accepted to top colleges, local students know what they need to do: attain top grades, take a competitive course load (preferable full of AP courses) and earn impressive SAT scores. But students often overlook a subtle, but significant factor that can make or break their likelihood of meeting with success.
High school students – masters of social media – probably have no idea that colleges and universities have turned the tables and are themselves utilizing social media to mine data on their applicants.
“Enrollment officers at institutions including Seton Hall University, Quinnipiac University and Dickinson College know down to the second when prospective students opened an email from the school, how long they spent reading it and whether they clicked through to any links,” according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper reported that Boston University knows when prospective students respond online that they will attend an event and then don’t show up. Seton Hall notices at what point in high school a student started looking at their website and how much time the student has spent on the website.
The VP for admissions at Quinnipiac is reported as stating, “If we ask someone for an interview, we look at how they respond, how quickly they respond or if they don’t respond at all. It helps us make a decision.”
Mining information on prospective students is a solid business as colleges and universities can buy software that tracks data on this target audience. The chief executive of Technolutions Inc. is reported as stating that the company’s product, Slate, “generates a dashboard summarizing thousands of data points on each student and is used by 850 schools.”
These high-tech tools are complemented by low-tech means of assessing student interest. American University tracks which of its applicants have either visited the campus or attended an information session about the school. Two-thirds of those admitted have typically participated in one of these events.
Colleges even track an old-fashioned civility: sending a thank you note. When students are afforded opportunities for alumni interviews, handwritten thank you notes should promptly be mailed. It is a wise gesture to do so even to campus tour guides, who sometimes share these notes with the Admissions Office.
The reason for all of this surveillance is that colleges are keen on assessing “demonstrated interest.” Popular use of The Common Application, which allows students to fill out one application online and submit it to any of 800 schools, has resulted in many colleges experiencing a significant rise in applications. But colleges are concerned with identifying exactly which students, if accepted, will actually enroll, as they have multi-million dollar budgets to meet and reputations to uphold.
What should high school students do with this knowledge? The best advice is to actively engage with any college of interest, visit the campus, interact with the admissions office, open all emails immediately and promptly respond to any correspondence. Demonstrating sincere interest these days often pays off.
Susan Alaimo is the founder of SAT Smart. For the past 25 years, SAT Smart’s Ivy League educated tutors have prepared students for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, AP courses, and all high school subjects. Visit www.SATsmart.com or call 908-369-5362.