Applying in Today’s Digital World

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In today’s world, applying to schools — whether as an undergraduate, graduate or certification candidate — can be a full-time job.

There’s the time spent researching different programs, coupled with the energy spent visiting a select group of institutions. And on top of that, there are the growing costs associated with applying to eight to 15 different schools.

However, students today have a variety of tools — some of them new, some of them old — at their disposal.

First, of course, there’s the Web. According to a recent poll of more than 1,600 U.S. high school students, 51 percent of respondents said they will rely on the Internet during their college search process.

Then, there are social networks. Sixteen percent of respondents said they’d rely on their friends during their college search process, making friends the second most-cited source. With the growing popularity of sites such as Facebook and MySpace, it seems peer-to-peer networking is not only here to stay, but it has become a trusted, valid resource.

And now, students have another tool at their fingertips, one that combines the previous two. Part search engine, part social networking tool, aims to provide students with 360-degree views of institutions across the country. Staff members visit each school, interview students on campus about everything from culture to courses to nightlife, and post the interviews in video form on the site. A prospective student can then log on and watch the videos to get a better understanding of what the institution is like — without ever stepping foot on campus.

“It’s real, it’s peer-to-peer, it’s unscripted,” said founder and CEO Glenn Pere. also ranks institutions, allows students to compare statistics side-by-side and provides tips on how to apply.

“A year and a half ago, we created [the site] because we just thought it was a niche that had a void that we thought we could fill,” Pere said. “Over the past year and a half, with the economy, it turned into a different animal completely.”

Pere estimates that families spend between $8,000 and $10,000 to visit schools. Not only is it now impossible for many students, especially those overseas, to spend that kind of money on the search, but with less money to go around in terms of loans and scholarships, they also must choose wisely.

“It’s really important that when you spend a dollar, that you get a dollar back in return in education,” Pere said.

Making full use of the Web and its possibilities could prove beneficial to students looking to narrow down their searches.

“At the end of the day, you’re only going to be going to one [school],” Pere said.

Thus far, has made 30,000 videos from 200 colleges in the U.S. While it is possible to search the site by terms such as “professor” or “Greek life,” there’s no functionality to allow prospective students to search by concentration — e.g., “information technology.” Pere said this capability is definitely in the works, however.

“That will all come in further development,” he said. “Web sites: That’s the beautiful thing about them — they morph. We’re always looking to fill a need on the Web site.”

In the meantime, Pere offered his advice for would-be IT students to find the schools that would suit their needs and personalities. He said students should take into consideration the following factors: interests, proximity to home, cost, financial aid and academic schedule.

And unlike in the past, students should work harder to narrow down potential choices prior to applying.

“At nearly $75 an application, if you’re applying to 15 schools, that’s over a thousand dollars,” Pere said. “With money being as tight as it is today, with credit being crunched, with 529 plans [tax-advantaged college savings plans] being hit, with endowments going down, with tuition going up, it’s [hard],” Pere said. “Yes, we would say apply to schools, but certainly not 15. We would make the number closer to seven.”

In the IT field, where many prospective students are coming from overseas, this is especially sage advice. Do research online, seek out friends and family and consult with guidance counselors before visiting schools or even applying. 

– Agatha Gilmore,

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