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Student tracking, secret scores: How college admissions offices rank prospects before they apply

MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 38837 replies2131 threads Super Moderator
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/14/colleges-quietly-rank-prospective-students-based-their-personal-data/?wpisrc=al_special_report__alert-tech--alert-national&wpmk=1

"The admissions officer also received a link to a private profile of the student, listing all 27 pages she had viewed on the school’s website and how long she spent on each one. A map on this page showed her geographical location, and an “affinity index” estimated her level of interest in attending the school. Her score of 91 out of 100 predicted she was highly likely to accept an admission offer from UW-Stout, the records showed."
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Replies to: Student tracking, secret scores: How college admissions offices rank prospects before they apply

  • tdy123tdy123 824 replies15 threads Member
  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 4477 replies18 threads Senior Member
    https://qz.com/513622/colleges-are-spying-on-prospective-students-by-quietly-tracking-them-across-the-internet/

    Nothing new... I tell students all the time they should research schools anyway. One's that they have interest in go on every now and then and check it out to learn something new but who knows.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34587 replies385 threads Senior Member
    Every site can track us. Look at the ads that show up on FB or CC, even in email, based on clicks elsewhere.
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  • MWolfMWolf 1725 replies11 threads Senior Member
    They're no different than many businesses and random websites. The number of tracking cookies that are in your computers is pretty large, unless you make sure to limit or block them.
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  • Dave_BerryDave_Berry 492 replies2618 threadsCC Admissions Expert Senior Member
    "To learn more about prospective students, admissions officers at the University of Wisconsin-Stout turned to a little-known but increasingly common practice: They installed tracking software on their school website.

    When one student visited the site last year, the software automatically recognized who she was based on a piece of code, called a cookie, which it had placed on her computer during a prior visit. The software sent an alert to the school’s assistant director of admissions containing the student’s name, contact information and details about her life and activities on the site, according to internal university records reviewed by The Washington Post. The email said she was a graduating high school senior in Little Chute, Wis., of Mexican descent who had applied to UW-Stout.

    The admissions officer also received a link to a private profile of the student, listing all 27 pages she had viewed on the school’s website and how long she spent on each one." ...

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/14/colleges-quietly-rank-prospective-students-based-their-personal-data/
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  • gwnorthgwnorth 387 replies8 threads Member
    An interesting (disturbing?) read about how some schools are using data analytics and tracking software to profile potential admits.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/14/colleges-quietly-rank-prospective-students-based-their-personal-data/
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  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN 3417 replies11 threads Senior Member
    I have a question about the second paragraph of the WP article. The student visited the site at least twice and the U then had her personal info ( name, ethnicity, etc). How do they know her name just from visits to their website?
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78686 replies698 threads Senior Member
    edited October 15
    I have a question about the second paragraph of the WP article. The student visited the site at least twice and the U then had her personal info ( name, ethnicity, etc). How do they know her name just from visits to their website?

    Could be that she clicked on a link in an email that they sent her. The link left a cookie, which is then checked on subsequent visits.

    This should not be a surprise for those who have followed the increasing attention paid to "level of applicant's interest" in college admissions.

    Potential applicants may want to do the following when dealing electronically with colleges that consider level of applicant's interest:

    * Open all emails, showing all images.
    * Click through links in those emails.
    * Accept cookies from the college web sites.
    * Disable browser privacy features when visiting college web sites.

    (But can colleges figure out how to see if other college's cookies are in your browser? If so, then it can be a problem if a college detects that you are also interested a competitor college that usually wins cross-admits.)

    Of course, electronic cookie crumbs are not the only indicators of "level of applicant's interest"; for colleges that consider that, other indicators are likely to be used, potentially with greater importance (e.g. applying ED is the biggest expression of applicant interest; "why [this college]?" and other essays are also highly important).
    edited October 15
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  • PetraMCPetraMC 792 replies5 threads Member
    Ah yes, this should bring the stress level way down. More tasks to make sure you attend to.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2369 replies45 threads Senior Member
    "Ah yes, this should bring the stress level way down. More tasks to make sure you attend to."

    Another task for the tiger/helicopter/lawnmower parents! LOL


    "The Education Department can suspend all federal funding to any school it finds in violation of FERPA but has never imposed that penalty in the 45 years since the law was created."

    Maybe it is time...
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34587 replies385 threads Senior Member
    This is the third or fourth thread on this, in a few days. Why is tracking a surprise? And why do you think "tracking" is a valid way to guage interest?

    For all we know, this is just to measure the effectiveness of marketing, e-mailings or how many visits lead to apps. Or delve deeper into the demographics vs eventual applicants and matriculants. Etc. PLus some colleges already ask in the supps, how you know the college- contacts, email, visits, yourown research, etc.

    The real kicker is your app, itself. Do you know the college and your place there? Or just what you "want" or "dream" about? So easy to mess the app up, no matter visits or opening emails. Adcoms wat more than plain old "interest."
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 1958 replies6 threads Senior Member
    edited October 15
    Why is tracking a surprise?
    Indeed. Colleges are far from the only website that use them. Ever browsed something on a website that you didn’t buy, then got a email a while later saying “still interested” or “you left this behind”?

    Don’t you always have the option to not accept cookies from the websites?

    I don’t really think it adds to stress, either. If you are genuinely interested in a college, you should be clicking through the links from their emails anyway?
    edited October 15
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    I have a question about the second paragraph of the WP article. The student visited the site at least twice and the U then had her personal info ( name, ethnicity, etc). How do they know her name just from visits to their website?

    Lots of data (you name, email, IP address, etc.) are for sale. Presumably, the college could have purchased such data so that it could match your clicks with the data in order to identify you.
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  • EconPopEconPop 240 replies6 threads Junior Member
    edited October 15
    SJ2727 wrote: »
    Why is tracking a surprise?
    Indeed. Colleges are far from the only website that use them.
    Agreed.
    SJ2727 wrote: »
    If you are genuinely interested in a college, you should be clicking through the links from their emails anyway?
    Maybe not as much. My son and I have reviewed dozens of colleges. Saying "over 100" is not an exaggeration. And not just quickie review skimming. We broke down information for a lot of universities.

    Once you see the first few college web pages, they all start to look the same and they all say the same things about themselves. Audi says Audi is great, and better than all competitors; Pepsi says Pepsi is great and better than all competitors. Pretty soon, we realized that third-party sites had a very important part in the process because they are, hopefully, unbiased.

    Some of the universities that came to his attention later in the process, we learned the most about from third party sites. Because we learned about school J after we realized the limits of useful information available from all schools' web sites, we spent more time learning about school J on 3rd party sites rather than school J's site.

    That is not to say we completely ignored school J's web site, but we didn't bother digging deep into every nook and cranny.

    However, knowing all about tracking/cookies/etc, I made sure he clicked email links and such for the schools he is most interested in.
    edited October 15
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1165 replies16 threads Senior Member
    Odd article.

    “Little known practice”? “based on a piece of code, called a cookie” I had to check to make sure I hadn’t clicked on a very old article.

    Maybe tech isn’t as prevalent as I think, but we’ve been doing this for clients for - I can’t even remember - 10+ years?

    “Records and interviews show that colleges are building vast repositories of data on prospective students — scanning test scores, Zip codes, high school transcripts, academic interests, Web browsing histories, ethnic backgrounds and household incomes”.

    Pretty sure colleges captured my test scores, zip code, transcript, interests, ethnic background and household income when I applied - 30+ years ago.

    I have a question about the second paragraph of the WP article. The student visited the site at least twice and the U then had her personal info ( name, ethnicity, etc). How do they know her name just from visits to their website?

    “ The female student who was tracked last year voluntarily gave the school her background information when she applied, “

    The article seems to be trying to raise fear about an extremely benign, common technology in today’s world.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78686 replies698 threads Senior Member
    SJ2727 wrote: »
    Why is tracking a surprise?
    Indeed. Colleges are far from the only website that use them. Ever browsed something on a website that you didn’t buy, then got a email a while later saying “still interested” or “you left this behind”?

    Don’t you always have the option to not accept cookies from the websites?

    I don’t really think it adds to stress, either. If you are genuinely interested in a college, you should be clicking through the links from their emails anyway?

    However, some people browse with more private settings (cookie rejection/limitation, private windows, etc.) to avoid being tracked by advertisers or may have image loading default to off to conserve data on mobile devices; this may result in them not being counted as interested by a college even though they are interested enough to read the emails and browse the web site (although anonymously).
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  • MWolfMWolf 1725 replies11 threads Senior Member
    The only thing which is surprising is how few colleges are on the list. I would have expected the list to be much longer...
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  • homerdoghomerdog 5254 replies99 threads Senior Member
    I doubt this list is exhaustive. I'm sure many more schools are tracking interest in this way. And why not? It helps the schools plan to hit targets and not over/under enroll. Honestly, I'd rather more schools do this and do away with ED so kids don't have to use ED to show enough interest!
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    RichInPitt wrote: »
    The article seems to be trying to raise fear about an extremely benign, common technology in today’s world.
    It may be benign to some, but an invasion of privacy to others.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7669 replies62 threads Senior Member
    Didn't we already know this? We always tell students to create their portal accounts, open emails, etc......
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