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College Confidential – What’s The Buzz All About?

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Have you ever used College Confidential?

College Confidential is a popular website for prospective college students, and their families. It allows them to participate in what is dubbed the “World Largest College Forum”. While on the site you can find thousands of posts and discussions related to college admissions. That cover topics such as waitlists, financial aid, admissions statistics and particular majors. There are even forums where parents can brag (anonymously) about their student. Or just share what they are having for dinner. Students might post their standardized test scores or simply just discuss high school life.

In a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Eric Hoover does a great job outlining the phenomenon known as College Confidential.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

To demonstrate the popularity of the site, Mr. Hoover explains that College Confidential attracted nearly 44 million visitors from April 2012 to this March. That is pretty impressive.

When I was working in college admissions at the University of Colorado Boulder, I would often Google “University of Colorado Admissions”. To see what was being discussed online about our admissions process. As the head of a campus tour guide program, and campus visit coordinator, I wanted to see what the hot topics were. And make sure my tour guides and staff were prepared for the questions they might encounter.

One day, I came across the website College Confidential. On the site I saw reviews of campus visits to CU-Boulder, discussions about our scholarship offers, and students posting their stats to see if others could judge them on their chances for admissions. I saw parents of CU alums giving recommendations for where to live, where to eat in town, and how to work “the system.” And so, I started checking the site regularly. I read a variety of posts (let me just say that the site is quite addicting) and I also saw a lot of wrong answers.

Our Contributions

So, a colleague of mine and I talked it over. And we started taking turns responding directly to some of the posts to see if we could help provide clarity to those curious and questioning students and parents. People were surprised to see an admissions counselor on the forum. That is not unique these days. And I have seen more and more college admissions officers taking the time to respond to posts on College Confidential.

Using it today

Now, as an independent educational consultant, I find that I still go on the site – but for different reasons. I sometimes check to see if decisions have been released at a college at which one of my students has applied. Sometimes, I read other students stats. Sometimes, I just like to read reviews of others experiences throughout the admissions process. I like to know what common concerns are so I can address those with the families I work with.

That being said, while College Confidential has some benefits, it also has its downsides.

When working with my students and talking about college research I tell them that this site exists. And that they can use it but warn them that reading a forum like College Confidential is a lot like reading any other review site (like TripAdvisor). These forums are based on opinions. And are often  filled with either really happy people or really upset people. You don’t get a lot of the in between. So, it is important to take it all with a grain of salt and know what you are getting into. No matter what, I tell my students, this should not be their only source for gathering information about a college.

As well, College Confidential can sometimes fuel the fire of the college admissions frenzy. So if you are prone to feeling stressed and anxious about the process, you may want to avoid some parts of the forum. As Mr. Hoover so accurately states, “…College Confidential, with its many facets, is also a metaphor for the admissions process, in which families have many choices. To freak out or stay calm. Or to sweat prestige or not. To crank up the big amplifiers or don the noise-canceling headphones.”


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