Is the Internet Ruining College Admissions?

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Is the Internet ruining the college admissions process as we know it? John Christensen, outgoing director of admissions at St. John’s (the one in Annapolis, not the one in New York) seems to think so.

As Christensen told the Chronicle, the internet has fundamentally changed the college admissions process. Whereas once the schools controlled most of the information that prospective students got about them via brochures, campus visits, etc. These days, though, blogs, gossip boards, and Facebook can offer a fuller — if not quite as flattering! — portrait of a school. Admissions officers now must spend their time mastering YouTube and Twitter, trying to create an engaging and appealing online personality for their institution. (See, for example, Johns Hopkins’ attempt to woo undergrads.)

But this comes at a price. As Christensen puts it, “Admissions directors spend so much time grappling with these issues that many of us feel more and more removed from working directly with high school counselors, prospective students, and their families—the work that once made our jobs enjoyable and rewarding.” In this way, college admissions is subject to the paradox of online socializing:  more information and access can sometimes lead to an increased sense of alienation and distance.

To be fair, Christensen notes the positives, too:  namely, that schools are attracting more and more international students. Still, what does it mean that admissions officers feel “managers of media campaigns [who] do not have time for the work we enjoy”? Do the pluses outweigh the minuses?

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