College Detrimental: Just because it’s confidential doesn’t mean it’s true

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We are now officially in the season of college applications. As seniors frantically scramble to finalize their letters of recommendations and cram the last profound, perspective-changing epiphany into their personal statements, one question nags in the back of every student’s mind: what are my chances of getting into [insert college here]?

Enter College Confidential: the Facebook of the college application process, where instead of posting statuses about slight variations in the weather or their favorite song lyrics, students boast of their academic achievements and desperately beg others to rate the chances of admission to a particular college.

This site acts as an open forum to everything college related, allowing students to scout out their competition by looking through people’s SAT scores, extracurriculars, and GPA, as well as get advice from past and current applicants on how to maximize their chances of getting into a college. However, from a person who admittedly perused this site more than a couple times, please, do yourself and your self-esteem a favor and avoid this site at all cost.

For those unfamiliar with this horror of a site, consider the following excerpt from a post by user Yale_or_Bust:
“I am a current senior and I’m only taking 6 AP classes my senior year, in addition to one elective, which lowers my total GPA from a 4.89 to a 4.85. Will this ruin my chances at HYP [Harvard, Yale, Princeton]?”

This post is followed by 28 responses confirming that yes, having only at 4.85 GPA and only 6 AP classes senior year will in fact diminish all chances of acceptance at “HYP” and thus the user should only apply to the “safety Ivies.” Heart-warming.

The main flaw of College Confidential (out of the many, many imperfections) is that users forget that on a site with no accountability, all it takes to lie and make up information is an internet connection and a computer. Thus the self- proclaimed “experienced” users take on the role of college counselors in order to provide lost souls with (often inaccurate) advice. This assistance at times results in misinformation. According to Mountain View High School Counselor Linda Schortz, students would be much better off avoiding these sites altogether.

“I had concerns about the random posts from non-experts that seemed to be perpetuating myths and misinformation that one hears about admissions,” Schortz said. “Why look at College Confidential for admissions when the colleges each have their own web pages devoted to these topics? I believe [students]would be much better off going straight to the direct source for their information.”

Referring directly to a particular college website for information will help students avoid erroneous advice from users that may have ulterior motives. Another twist to the game is the passive aggressive parental competition that takes place on the same threads as students chancing each other.

“These parents are willing to do whatever it takes to get their child an acceptance letter, even if it means tearing down another applicant’s esteem to discourage them from applying to the same school,” senior Allison Alder said.

Additionally, users of College Confidential also often inflate their stats in order to boost their self-esteem while psyching out the competition. A 2200 SAT score suddenly jumps up to a 2380 SAT score on the site, while a B range student suddenly becomes top of her class.

“With the anonymity of the internet, it is too easy to lie on sites like [College Confidential].” Alder said. “Users think ‘what’s the harm of a little fib’ when in fact it does a great harm.”

These small exaggerations give unaware users unrealistic expectations for themselves academically, causing feelings of inadequacy and inferiority when they compare to their lower (but realistic) stats to the higher (but unreal) stats on the site. Furthermore, according to MVHS counselor Marti McGuirk, College Confidential’s Chance Me option, which only factors in SAT scores, GPA, class rank, and extracurriculars, leaves out a key aspect of the college admission process: the human aspect.

“The idea that students would use the ‘chance’ feature to gain actual insight of their chances for admission at a particular school really troubles me,” she said. “To suggest that a random assortment of online presences – some of them other high school students who aren’t fully aware of admissions policies and practices – could give students an accurate insight into their chances for admission based on extremely limited information is pretty ludicrous to me.”

In fact, all colleges using the Common Application are legally required to use a holistic method of evaluating applicants, meaning that they look at applicants as a whole, rather than just SAT scores, GPA, or the number of activities a student participates in. To guess one’s ability to get into college based solely on numbers not only is inaccurate, but also a waste of time.

The next time you log into your Naivance account and see the College Confidential section, give yourself a break and resist the urge to explore the site. Looking at College Confidential will do nothing but intimidate you and add stress to an already hectic time in your life.

This site thrives off of insecure, fearful high school students; don’t become one of its victims. Work on your application the best you can and be proud of the work you’ve done thus far in your life. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing.

 

Viet Nguyen
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1 Comment

  1. Hi, Viet. Sorry your experience with CC wasn’t the best. I cofounded the site 11 years ago to provide an environment for students and parents to learn and share knowledge about the college process. Prior to that, I went through that process with my own kids and realized how much we all learned and how we might have done things differently had we known earlier what we knew at the end. Even today, many students have as their sole counseling resource a single counselor who may be handling 500+ students, has limited college knowledge, and must deal with many other issues than college counseling.

    Every year, we get lots of emails and posts from both parents and students who learned a lot at CC and attribute some portion of their admission success to the help they received there. As just one example of the counseling issues many students face, read this recent thread: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/1413227-guidance-counselor-has-not-heard-common-app.html

    I totally agree that there are many stats-braggarts (and exaggerators), but it’s easy to ignore them and focus on the many helpful members.

    Best,

    Roger