Gaming the College Admissions Process

Source: Mindshift, Sep 2011

A couple of new startups — Parchment and Acceptly — have entered the space recently, aiming to help deliver better advice and assistance for high school students and their parents — for free.

Although both the startups offer guidance to students going through the college application process, they each take a different approach. Parchment helps provide data-oriented assessments to help point students towards what it calculates is a good fit, while Acceptly helps students keepup-to-speed with the various activities they need to do to look like a “good fit.”

Acceptly helps students get organized for the application process. The site uses points and badges, the latter of which can be posted to the student’s Facebook profile, in order to help guide them through the various steps. It isn’t simply about filling out the paperwork of the application itself; it’s about helping prompt students to engage in a multitude of activities that will help boost their chances for admission to their dream schools.

There’s a badge for signing up for the SAT. There’s a badge for doing test prep. There’s a badge for participating in activities, and there’s one for thinking through what those activities can (and should) be, as well as encouraging reminders to try for leadership positions. There’s a badge for talking to the college counselor at school. There’s a badge for signing up for the types of college-preparatory classes that are known to look good on the application. You get the point.

All of these steps make it clear what students should do to pull together their materials, and the easy-to-use interface can also serve as a reminder or “To Do” list of sorts to help keep students on track.

Acceptly is clearly aimed at students. That’s great for students who are prepared to really own their future and their direction, but perhaps less helpful for students who’ll need more help and encouragement than just a virtual badge.

The startup is still in beta and is actively seeking feedback from its testers to help build its service.

Parchment approaches the questions surrounding college admissions from a data-oriented, rather than a “gamified” perspective. The startup was founded by Blackboard co-founder Matthew Pittinsky and describes itself as an “education data company.”

Parchment taps in to Docufide, a service through which students send their transcripts to colleges. Parchment builds on the Docufide platform, so that students’ credentials can be transferred to universities, but also so that the company can help students gauge whether or not their credentials are adequate to gain admissions into certain colleges.

According to Parchment, the company works much like Netflix or Amazon recommendations — using vast amounts of users’ data — GPA, SAT scores, extracurricular activities and so on — the site can assess whether former applicants with similar profiles gained admission into certain schools. Parchment also says it can help point students towards schools that match their profiles, helping them find schools that are a good fit.

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