With thousands of colleges to choose from, picking a handful or so to apply to can be sometimes feel like throwing darts on a map. But one website is hoping to change all that. Parchment is a free site that helps students find colleges that would be a good fit for them by giving them a sense of where they could get in and which schools their peers prefer, all based on data provided by more than 100,000 applicants who have voluntarily shared their admissions results.
All students have to do is log in and fill out their academic profile, which includes GPA, SAT, or ACT scores, extracurricular activities, location, and preferences. From there, they can use the site to discover which colleges their peers were accepted to, and which are most preferred by admitted students when compared head to head. For example, if a student wants to know which colleges in the Northeast are preferred by students from his city with GPAs around 3.75, or what school students choose when they get into both UC Berkeley and Stanford, the site will provide that information based on the data submitted by those thousands of applicants.
By comparing their own academic profiles to those provided by admitted students, Parchment users also can see their chances of getting into a particular college, as well as what they can do to make themselves more viable candidates for that school, such as raising their GPA or SAT scores or tacking on an extracurricular activity. With nearly 4,500 degree-granting institutions in the U.S. by the National Center for Education Statistics’ last count, a resource that helps narrow down the playing field and understand a school beyond a brochure or single visit is a long-time coming.
"When students use Parchment.com, the fruits of their effort are passed along for the benefit of the next group of applicants," James Pirruccello, a general manager of Parchment, said in a statement. "Parchment.com makes sense of all of this college admissions data, allowing us to provide benefits for the students such as acceptance chances, suggestions about colleges they might want to consider, and visualizations of what kinds of students are applying to each institution."
Of course, with the college admissions process still a fickle one, Parchment’s results are no guarantee of acceptance into a certain school, though the nascent website is already predicted to become a standard part of the application process. "With thousands of qualified applicants and limited space, schools simply can’t accept everyone that meets their statistical ideal. But, given that students are clamoring for user-friendly tools that will make researching schools easier, Parchment might end up becoming a ubiquitous part of the process," wrote Liz Dwyer, education writer for Good magazine.
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