Choosing St. John's Liberal Education Students

Technology in College Admissions

In two recent articles, the Washington Post‘s higher-education writer, Nick Anderson, wrote about high-tech solutions for the perennial dilemma of college admissions officers: How will students find us? (See http://bit.ly/Students-Finding-Colleges and http://bit.ly/Matchmaking-Through-Technology.)

It turns out, Anderson reports, that Big Data is trying out a possible solution for this problem. By adapting the sort of questionnaires and data analysis used by the giant online dating services, some new companies are working on matching various psychological, philosophical, and social preferences to colleges that fit students’ personal profiles.

Ordinarily, I’m suspicious of statistical solutions to educational problems. Most often, the data used have little if anything to do with real learning.

But if data can be massaged to find matches between prospective students and colleges that suit them, then this particular statistical tool may be very useful indeed, because, as I wrote in the Huffington Post some time ago (http://bit.ly/college-5-things), finding the right fit is one of the five most important things to consider when choosing a college.

And there is no reason to think that this kind of technology cannot help students and their parents become aware of colleges that might be a good fit, but the important work will have to be done by the individual: talking to people you know, talking to former and current students, visiting schools to see, hear, and feel campus life. Personal experience is still the best way to prepare for making a good choice.