By Lucy Jackson
When Danelle* â09 applied early to the University of Pennsylvania, she checked College Confidentialâs online discussion boards every day. She read over other applicantsâ posts, hoping to get a glimpse at the competition. That knowledge of her rivalsâ 2400s and 4.7 GPAs, though, only made her more anxious, she said. But she couldnât stop.
“I got pretty addicted because it was a way of releasing some of the pent up anxiety, but it only increased it â it was kind of a vicious circle,” she said.
College Confidential, along with a handful of other sites like mychances.net and autoadmit.com, has soared in popularity in recent years as applicant numbers peak and college acceptance rates dip lower than ever.
The sites serve as an online community for college hopefuls in which applicants can read up about schools and communicate with others like them on discussion boards. Site users can also participate in “chancing” other members, a practice in which applicants present their stats and ask the community to predict their chances of getting into a given college.
Dean Sharon Cuseo understands why students like Danelle flock to sites like these, but she sees minimal benefits to the websites. While the sites can occasionally make Harvard-Westlake students feel better by making them aware of what the rest of the applicant pool looks like, she said, the ego boost comes at too high a cost.
“The only upside is that I think it gives them some perspective, but the downsides are many,” she said. “I just get frustrated by the misinformation. There are people on there who act like they know what theyâre talking about but just raise anxiety, are completely wrong and are just irresponsible.”
James Pirruccello, who founded mychances.net, which has experienced an almost 50 percent increase in traffic this school year, disagrees with Cuseoâs assertion that the sites have few positive aspects.
“It helps to see the actual numbers of the colleges youâre interested in, since numbers matter (not exclusively, but they matter), and it helps to see profiles of students who were rejected or accepted by the colleges youâre interested in, so you can start to form your own opinion about what your ultimate outcome will be.”
Madison* â09, who applied early decision to a top university, created a member profile on Pirruccelloâs site to gauge where she stood from an admissions perspective, but, like Cuseo, didnât find the site to be that helpful.
“Somehow I came across the site and decided to set up [a profile] to see my chances of getting into schools, however, the site isnât really updated so itâs a little off, plus there are a lot of things that they donât take into account,” she said. “It didnât turn out to be a crutch whatsoever.”
*Names withheld upon request