Why LinkedIn is a Far Superior Alternative to Naviance

Naviance has had a great run with high schools across the country for well over a decade. Naviance allows students to compare their GPAs and standardized test scores to those of other students at their school who have applied to colleges of their interest. As acceptance rates at many colleges and universities were plummeting to record low levels, schools and students welcomed the limited guidance of same school, year to year comparisons offered by Naviance.

In the age of holistic college admissions, Naviance’s simplistic data correlation is essentially flawed. Reading the admissions websites of highly selective schools, we now understand that GPA in and of itself is not a determinative admissions factor. Admissions officers look beyond the GPA to examine the course curriculum selected by the applicant. Are the courses intellectually challenging or are they simply ‘gut’? Do the courses align with the applicant's stated field of study and demonstrate an intellectual curiosity? Standardized test scores also continue to be deemphasized by most institutions while other subjective admissions factors are gaining weight as part of the holistic admissions approach. Perhaps most importantly, intra school admissions data is very limited and highly unreliable.

As highlighted by the Huffington Post, more than 200,000 high school seniors graduated with a 4.0 GPA last year. Nearly 3,000 students scored 2200-plus on the SAT, and Harvard rejected 200 applicants who boasted a perfect 2400 score. Naviance is not programmed to deal with such complexities.

High schools considering investing more taxpayer dollars towards a Naviance license might be better served to consider a free and far superior option: LinkedIn. Yes, LinkedIn is arguably the most extensive, relevant and actionable database and online community ever assembled for college bound high school students.

Before delving into LinkedIn's powerful tools, let’s address the strong resistance towards introducing LinkedIn to high school students. Although LinkedIn lowered its minimum age to 14 when it first launched University Pages back in 2013, according to a recent Forbes article, the percentage of high schoolers graduating in 2014 who used LinkedIn was merely 8%. This shows a natural reluctance towards using LinkedIn as an information source and networking tool at such a young age. Sure, most college bound high school students have never worked a day in their lives, but this misses the point (and power) of LinkedIn completely. For high school students, LinkedIn is not about what they have already accomplished, it’s all about what they aspire to accomplish.

So why aren’t more high schools encouraging their students to use LinkedIn's amazing tools and unmatched resources? The fault may very well lie with LinkedIn itself. In order to enjoy these tools and engage with LinkedIn’s college communities, students must first feel comfortable building their LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, LinkedIn has not done enough to provide high school students with a workable methodology to translate their high school experiences into the LinkedIn format.

Leading high schools understand the importance of teaching LinkedIn to their students. Students (with the support of their parents) need to overcome the intimidation that comes with the so-called “Professional Social Network.” Understanding and mastering LinkedIn proficiency is a critical 21st century skill for teens not only for college admissions but for their future career goals. From social recruiting to effective networking, LinkedIn has become the de facto clearinghouse and recruiting service for colleges and employers.

The earlier students start using LinkedIn, the more effective the platform becomes for them. Essential secondary education should add LinkedIn to their curriculum so students can learn how to use social media channels to showcase their academic and extracurricular accomplishments, skills and talents while also learning effective networking techniques in the social age.

Alan Katzman is the founder and CEO of Social Assurity. Social Assurity offers professional social media e-courses, workshops, and personal consultations to teach students how to elevate their social media and digital presence for better college and career opportunities.