High school students today are collecting information about colleges—from the majors they offer to admissions standards to on-campus social life— through forums that many teenagers are probably already familiar with: online chats.
Students are able to gather details directly from admissions officials, and in some cases from students at the higher education institutions they’re considering attending, through a service named CollegeWeekLive, as noted in a recent story by the Los Angeles Times.
About 500 colleges, including two- and four-year and public and private institutions, participate in the service, paying a fee based on how they use the site, Martha Collins, a spokeswoman for the Needham, Mass.-based company, told Education Week. Students are asked to register and then can use the site for free; 1.2 million students, from 50 states and 191 countries, are currently signed up.
Not surprisingly, the busiest time for the service runs from roughly November through February, typically the period when students begin applying to school through the time when they learn whether they’ve been accepted and are making final choice about where to attend, she said.
The site allows students to participate in online chats with college officials, who are in many cases admissions officers. Students can access videos and other detailed information about the individual colleges. The site also hosts events organized around specific themes of interest to students and their families. One upcoming event is focused on strategies for paying for college. Another is called “Transfer Day,” meant to help students make an “informed decision about transferring schools and choosing the right path for [their] needs.”
A separate site is tailored specifically for high school counselors. It allows those advisers to make requests of college officials, who might not be planning on visiting a particular secondary school, the host online sessions with groups of students and answer questions specific to their circumstances. It also presents counselors with detailed information on colleges they can pass on to students on their own.
CollegeWeekLive provided Edcuation Week with a few transcripts of online chats between college officials and students (whose names were changed). One such chat, held in October between a Pepperdine University admissions official and high schoolers, touched on a variety of topics, such as class sizes, on-campus living arrangements, and the possibility of internships that could lead to a job. Here’s an excerpt:
Q: What are some of the requirements to apply to this school?
A: You must apply via the Common Application, submit the $65 application fee, send in two letters of recommendation 1) an academic and 2) a personal (which can be from anyone except a family member), send in official SAT/ACT scores from College Board, and official High School transcripts. You can find the application steps at: http://seaver.pepperdine.edu/admission/apply/
Q: So what is the minimum GPA average?
A: We don’t have a minimum GPA, but our average in the past years has been around a 3.66 unweighted.
And that’s on a 4.0 scale.
Here’s a video that takes visitors on a tour of some of the site’s features:
CollegeWeekLive is also taking steps to try to reach new audiences. In October, the company partnered with Univision Communications to offer a free online college fair. The event was meant to address the needs of Latino students and their families, and provided them with information on admissions, financial aid, and other topics. More than 120 colleges took part.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.