College Confidential seems to be a lot like the US News College Rankings. Either people use it blindly as the final word on college admissions or they see it as simply the manifestation of all that is wrong with the college admissions process. The reality is that College Confidential, like US News College Rankings, can be a useful tool in your college search toolbox if used properly.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of College Confidential is a review of the College Confidential website by an admission’s officer from Johns Hopkins. Ultimately, he thinks College Confidential provides plenty of useful information as long as you don’t visit the forums. The author is very much a believer in “credible sources” professionals in the field as opposed to anonymous posters.
He states that “the existence of discussion forums that favor anonymity over credibility and the presence of a big brother marketing company in the background concerns me greatly. Why can’t such a community be formed by experts, by an organization that is unaffiliated to corporate ties, and where the most knowledge exists.”
In case you can’t guess my response to this let me remind you I homeschooled my son. And Johns Hopkins was one of the last schools to drop the requirements for extra Subject Tests for homeschoolers. What can I say, I think the guy might be a little too enamored with credentials.
Because Not Everyone Has Access to a Good Counselor
Virtually all of his criticisms of College Confidential are true but the fact remains that a visit to the Parents forum on College Confidential will provide plenty of evidence to contradict his assertion that “You’ll be amazed at how helpful your counselor can be. One thing is for sure, they will not ridicule you, they will not attack you, and they will not make you feel lesser about yourself. They also will not boost your ego, pat you on the back, and just provide you simple lip service.”
There are plenty of high school counselors as well as college admission representatives that give out biased, incomplete, and sometimes flat-out wrong information. And they aren’t all nice about it. Yet, according Admission Daniel, “… I am resistant to suggest there is any “good” involved with the discussion forums section of College Confidential.”
So what do you do if you don’t have access to a good guidance counselor? Certainly don’t go to the forums according to Admission Daniel. However, having spent a great deal of time on College Confidential’s athletic recruits and parent forums, I think he’s wrong to reject the forums completely.
College Confidential Forums: The Bad
But he is right about the “Chance Me” posts. “Chance Me” posts are the most notorious feature of College Confidential. These can be found in the “What are my chances” discussions.
Do not go there.
I have on occasion read a chance me thread because it was mistakenly (more likely on purpose) posted in another forum and the moderator hadn’t move it yet. It’s basically students giving their stats and activities and asking for their chances of getting into colleges x, y, and z.
The most ridiculous are the “Chance me and I’ll chance you back” posts. Really? You don’t know your chances of getting into a college but you’re going to tell other people what their chances are? I’m sure there are all kinds of psychological analysis that can be done about the individuals in this forum but the easiest thing is just not to go there.
In general, the forums can be an infuriating place as student after student asks questions where answers can easily be found on the college’s website. A long time poster on one of the forums pointed out that probably 90% of the questions can be answered with “ask the school” or “google it.”
Then there are the kids who post their stats, activities, and college preferences and ask for suggestions where to apply. Half the time, these students haven’t bothered using any college search engine, including the one provided on College Confidential before asking for help. Why should they when someone else will do their work for them?
College Confidential Forums: The Good
So why would anyone bother going to College Confidential? Because like I pointed out earlier, not everyone has a great high school counselor and there are a lot of people who have gone through the process and share their experience in the forums.
And while I’d imagine that most college admission officers would deny it, there are some out there that just give out the wrong information. It’s not so much that College Confidential will correct that information but that someone will point out that they had a different experience and that the person should probably contact a different person in the admissions office.
There are certain forums that are worth visiting that can help you figure out what you don’t know and what questions you should be asking. The three I have found most useful are College Search & Selection, College Admissions, and the Parents Forum.
The following are some threads that I think can provide help or perspective to the college search process:
“Top student” at a 3rd tier school… Four years later In this post the OP (Original Poster) tells how she went to a 3rd tier school and was accepted in quality PhD programs.
My Experience with a Personal College Consultant The OP describes her experience with using a private college consultant. There is some discussion of the ethics of the services provided and some unnecessary snide comments but plenty to think about.
College Selection: A list of things that trouble and irritate me This is a great but much too short thread about problems in suggestions/selections for schools.
College Confidential is definitely a “use at your own risk” proposition. Don’t accept numbers or “how tos” from a stranger on the internet if you haven’t bothered to look up the information yourself. Some opinions you’ll agree with, some you won’t. Ultimately, it works better as a tool to expand your horizons rather than narrow them.