Are you a high school senior with a 3.0 grade point average, an above-average SAT score, and a handful of extracurricular activities under your belt? Want to know which colleges have accepted students just like you? Parchment.com might have your answer.
Parchment, a company that has helped high school students transmit their academic records online, introduced a new website Sept. 12 that uses crowd sourcing and predictive analysis to help college applicants get a better grasp of where they should apply.
Read more about application websites in higher education…
Using public application data from more than 100,000 college applications obtained by Parchment when the company purchased MyChances.net, the new site lets college hopefuls see which schools accepted students with similar academic records.
Students who sign up for a free Parchment.com membership can see just how they can bolster their application with more AP-level classes, for instance, or a few more extracurriculars in their senior year.
“We’ve put students’ transcripts to work by analyzing them,” said Matthew Pittinsky, CEO of Parchment Inc. and a cofounder of Blackboard, Inc. “It’s really an example of the democratization of technology. [Applying to college] no longer becomes this cloak and dagger process that only the very few are able to access.”
Pittinsky said Parchment.com analyzes vast amounts of data the same way popular sites like Netflix and Amazon do. Instead of recommending TV shows, movies, and books, Parchment.com suggests colleges and universities that have accepted students with similar school records.
“When you have the data, there are very powerful things you can do to bring some transparency to a relatively opaque process,” he said.
Once a student is ready to submit their applications to colleges suggested to them via Parchment.com, the student can request that their official high school transcripts be sent to their desired schools. Parchment.com sends confirmation when an electronic record is received.
The student application database started on MyChances.net was the brainchild of brothers James and Brent Pirruccello, who were surprised by the lack of reliable web information for students researching which college, law school, or medical school would be best for them.
“An enormous amount of effort is put into researching college admissions each year by students and parents, but all of that effort evaporates after each admissions cycle,” said James Pirruccello, a general manager of Parchment.com. “When students use parchment.com, the fruits of their effort are passed along for the benefit of the next group of applicants.
The internet has a host of sites promising help in the complicated college application process. Recent application sites include The Essay Exchange, which launched last August and has a repository of about 700 essays written by current students and college graduates who shared their successful written works for $2 apiece.
For between $2 and $5, a prospective student can scroll through the essays and get a feel for the structure and subject matter that helped get another student into a college or university.
There’s a growing market for any service that promises help for students navigating the application process. There is only about one counselor for every 500 public high school students in the U.S., according to the American School Counselor Association.
College counseling experts said Parchment.com could be another valuable web-based tool for students whose families can’t afford expensive private advisers, but the site likely wouldn’t bridge the gap between a first-generation college applicant, for example, and a high school senior who meets with application experts.
Zoe Corwin, a research associate at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis and developer of an online counseling program called Pathfinder, said Parchment.com might help students better target realistic schools.
In her work with Pathfinder, Corwin said she has seen many low-income, first-generation college applicants with excellent applications apply only to community colleges, and other students with less-than-stellar academic records send their applications to Stanford University.
“It can certainly provide more information about a very confusing and complex process,” she said. “The problem becomes: How do students engage with the site, and does it become something that’s overwhelming to them? Does the site run the risk of” limiting students’ college options?
Grades, SAT scores, and extracurriculars are always major factors in the application process, Corwin said, but students can reach for that top-tier school even if predictive analysis and crowdsourcing tell them otherwise.
“Sometimes a strong personal statement can make all the difference for a student,” she said. “Sometimes kids get in who don’t exactly fit the profile.”
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