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Friday, July 20, 2007

Is PR's "Counselor-o-matic" just a revenue tool?

Our student workers did an interesting project last week that prompted me to revive the old issues blog. They started playing around with The Princeton's Review's "Counselor-o-matic", which is on their webpage. The "tool" is supposed to suggested appropriate matches for students after they have answered a few pages of questions about their academic profile. We were wondering what sorts of responses would prompt the Counselor-o-matic to suggest UVa as a reach, match, or safety. Below are the "profiles" we used (GPAs are unweighted):

Profile 1: 4.0 GPA, top curriculum, top 5% of the class, 2000 SAT
Profile 2: 3.9 GPA, top curriculum, top 5% of the class, 2300 SAT
Profile 3: 3.9 GPA, weak curriculum, top 5% of the class, 2400 SAT
Profile 4: 3.8 GPA, top curriculum, top 10% of the class, 2200 SAT
Profile 5: 3.7 GPA, good curriculum, top 10% of the class, 2300 SAT
Profile 6: 3.6 GPA, top curriculum, top 10% of the class, 2100 SAT
Profile 7: 3.2 GPA, okay curriculum, top 20% of the class, 1700 SAT

The results: UVA didn't come up for a match for ANY of the profiles. One of the "top 5%" students specified their location as Virginia and still didn't get UVa as a match. She then got more specific and said she lived right here in Charlottesville and didn't get UVa as a match. At the same time, some very random, unknown schools came up time and again as "match" schools. The only changes that allowed UVa to show up on a list where designating ethnicity or an interest in sports.

The whole exercise has me wondering about whether the "Counselor-o-matic" is a marketing tool (schools are offered the opportunity to pay for "increased visibility" on that website). What's more, it has me worried that some students are going through the survey once or twice and think the resulting lists are reliable.

I think The Princeton Review has some explaining to do.