Should higher education institutions actively seek potential students while they are in high school? (I asked a similar question regarding employers seeking out employees and my answer was yes – it is a more efficient and effective way to place employees.) There are a few reasons why colleges should reach out to potential students.
- Data on middle and high school students is accessible. There are now web services that consolidate student data – contact information, test scores, grades, and curriculum planning – into a single platform.
- One web service is offered by InBloom, which has $100 million in seed money and is backed by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation. (The data is collected without parental consent.) Currently, the focus is on personalized learning, however, InBloom permits third-parties to access its data stores so it is conceivable colleges could develop recruitment applications.
- Another web service is offered by ConnectEdu, a company that is trying to bridge information sharing between public schools and colleges. They offer a recruitment platform colleges utilize to target students.
- Colleges can participate in developing personalized learning plans for middle and high school students. Teenagers tailor the classes they take in high school based on input from colleges. For example, a teenager who demonstrates ability in English favors a more liberal arts track and one who demonstrates ability in STEM favors a more technical track. Moreover, teenagers can do things outside of the classroom – join a club, volunteer, or intern – to prepare for college and improve their chances of being accepted at one of their reach schools. Start the process of building skills and knowledge in high school.
- Colleges communicate an interest and leave a lasting impression on high school students. Most students are unaware of the colleges that should be on their radar (especially smart, lower income students). Currently, the best indication comes from the results of SATs or ACTs tests. But these tests are unreliable and not the best predictor of a student’s performance in college. Personally, I wish I heard from a reach college while I was a freshman or sophomore in high school; it would have motivated me, started my maturation process earlier, and ultimately made me more self-aware.
- Colleges have a better understanding of the preparedness of incoming students. Colleges mine for prospects at an earlier stage in their educational development and have a better grasp of their needs, which colleges can use to improve curriculums.
- Colleges can more accurately predict which students will enroll after being accepted. This is important because students who are accepted into many colleges take away offers to other students.
In Higher Education in America, Derek Bok summarizes how high school students could share relevant information:
high school students reveal their interests, abilities, academic records, extracurricular activities, and other background data… colleges could mine the information. (page 135)
LinkedIn is also entering into the fray by offering their professional networking services to teenagers and designing university pages. Their concept was recently released , so it is too early to predict its impact.
As these web services materialize, it will be interesting to see whether colleges start actively seeking out potential students. If they do, early high school students might employ a “pull approach” – where they pull colleges to a personal website to learn more about their skills, knowledge, interests, and values.