Admissions information online – worth what you pay for it.

A while back I posted the suggestion that you should be cautious about information you find about colleges online through sources other than the colleges. Of course colleges and universities (myself included) tend to be almost entirely positive on their own websites and may even (gasp) be over-hyping themselves, but the alternative is often outdated and misleading information. I noted a recent spate of posts on college wikis from students at rival schools in an attempt to run down the competition, so to speak. I hadn’t considered (or at least forgot to mention) the misleading POSITIVE information you can find online.
A recent post to a national admissions list serv suggested that colleges would be much better served doing away with print publications and instead start investing that money in student employees assigned to troll the internet, for instance on message boards on Zinch and college confidential, to promote the institution.
I’ll admit we’ve considered it. I know that students (and parents) are far more likely to be interested in schools based on chatter from “neutral” parties than from the stuff we send out from admissions. With the few things we have done on these message boards, I always have my staff and students identify themselves, explain that they are working for the school, and answer honestly (although I’ll certainly admit to positive spin). I have to assume, however, that this is not always the case.

So, sad to say, any number of posts, positive and negative, you find on these message boards may be from paid shills for universities. As with all information online, including the marketing hype colleges put on their own sites, be a smart consumer. Be seeing you.


One Response

  1. Good Post Dean Flagel. I have some personal experience with this. I own a company called myUsearch, an online tool that matches students to colleges and universities, and I monitor the chatter on College Confidential pretty closely. I have had several personal messages from companies posing as students. They send emails like: I understand you are interested in college search sites, I’ve found a great site called…… When I researched it further, it was someone from the company contacting me. While these forums are great resources, you have to take everything with a grain of salt.

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