College admission gets a Big Data magic 8 ball

It’s like a number-driven magic 8 ball.

admissions-big-dataMassive amounts of data is being used for myriad purposes on college campuses — with some Big Data companies giving away their services to students — so it might not shock educators and students to find an online service that uses data to quantify the chances a student has of getting into a certain school.

Using algorithm data taken directly from colleges and universities, the site StatFuse offers an instant look at how likely it is that a student applicant gets into her college of choice.

Knowing which schools are the best fit could save untold hours in the tedious application process that sees some students applying to 10, 15, or even 20 colleges during their senior year in high school. Leveraging Big Data during the application process could also save money for students, as schools charge application fees upwards of $60.

StatFuse, which includes more than 1,200 colleges and universities in its database, generates a report detailing a of an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, according to what schools look for in an applicant. The site also compares your chances of admission with the average chances of a student applying to that particular university.

“The biggest thing I tell parents and students is to not look at this tool as a way of crossing schools on and off your list. Instead, look at it as a tool that places you in a range and gives you realistic expectations,” said Jeet Banerjee, co-founder of StatFuse. “The best part is that students can really gauge and understand what they need to improve to better your chances. However, you never really strike out until the umpire says so the same goes for this case.”

Banerjee of StatFuse said the site could be another way for students to use information to make better, quicker decisions — just as many colleges have in recent years. Ben Werther, CEO of a Big Data company called Platfora, said at a March data conference that information has proven to be key at optimizing resources and money in business and education.

(Next page: Big data’s industry secret)

“Here’s an industry secret that lies beneath all the news hype on big data today: after two decades of nonstop advances in business intelligence technologies, organizational leaders are still using their gut to make decisions 95 percent of the time,” he said. “The reason why is because most people cannot get their hands on accurate decision-support information in time.”

Trust in the power and potential of Big Data can be seen throughout higher education, though there persists some skepticism of the accuracy of data-driven tools meant to “wage war” against gut decisions.

Higher education institutions in recent years have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in data research and tools. Some universities are putting up this money themselves, while others are relying on government and organization grants.

A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that “open data” alone (Big Data that is made freely available to others) would “unlock $3 trillion to $5 trillion in economic value annually across seven sectors.”

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