Need a Virtual Locker? Why Not Use LinkedIn?
I am puzzled by higher education. There is a constant need to reinvent the wheel. Every few years someone decides that things could be done better, whether it is the way that we teach math, the way our kids take tests, even the classroom curriculum. Instead of fixing what is not working, books are abandoned, philosophies are changed, technology is thrown by the wayside and the reinvention of the wheel begins anew. This is precisely what is happening with college admissions.
Two years ago, it was announced that there would be another novel solution to the inequitable college admissions process. The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success was introduced as the solution for the broken system. They propose virtual lockers for students to store their creative work, mentors to share their work with and access to financial aid information. In an effort to fix what is clearly broken, many have stepped in to try to make sense of the college admissions process. It seemed to start with Naviance, then the introduction of the Common Application and now the Coalition. Naviance, the software system that allows kids to rate and weigh college opportunities, appears to be less relevant since it places an unfavorable emphasis on test scores and grades. The Common Application proposed that the solution to exclusive admissions would be to apply everywhere. The Coalition‘s approach to provide virtual lockers and mentors seems to be a step in the wrong direction as well. I understand and agree that the playing field for college admissions is not a level one by any measure, but why is the solution to reinvent the wheel?
To me, the applications process is very similar to dating. There are the deal breakers that have to be met before you go on a date, age, education, values, religion; whatever. After your deal breakers have been satisfied, you move onto phase two, the date. Colleges have the same concept of deal breakers; you have to have a minimum SAT/ACT score and GPA to be considered. But after those academic deal breakers are met, the process becomes much more subjective, just like dating. In this part of the admissions process, admissions directors have had their deal breaker criteria met, now the admissions directors must decide who among their equally qualified candidates should be offered acceptance to their college community. The pool that meets the deal breaker criteria is usually a high number; most who apply are qualified from a deal breaker perspective. The discretionary part of the admissions process is where the Coalition’s ideas make the most sense. Give admissions directors’ access to the students profile compiled from 9-12th grade; let the admissions office see the photos, writings, and recommendations that make that candidate unique. I get that and it would only make sense that if you have a bigger picture of applicants you are admitting, you are going to do a better job of admissions. It only makes sense that you would want a complete profile of which candidates you admit, but why reinvent the wheel?
We already have the tools to provide a more equitable admissions process, these tools are social media platforms. Think of LinkedIn as the high school virtual locker, it shows what you WANT to accomplish and probably has some neat things that high school students might already be involved in. LinkedIn allows you to get recommendations, connect with universities and provides a global network for jobs and internships. Twitter is the digital equalizer. Twitter allows students to connect with anyone on the planet, thought leaders, politicians, professors; you name it they are probably on Twitter. One tweet can connect students to their future. Facebook is the mentor component of the application process that the Coalition recommends. If taught correctly students can utilize their Facebook contacts as virtual mentors sharing thoughts, decisions, and interests.
Social media platforms such as the ones listed above have been tested for years, they have the audience of the universities, the schools and the students and the best part is that they are FREE. There is no need to have virtual lockers for accomplishments when we can teach students to use LinkedIn. There is no need for mentors, we can teach students to link on Facebook. There is no need for a Coalition with more software to provide evenhandedness; we can educate students on the access provided by Twitter. Let’s teach kids how to use the tools that we have in place and know work, let’s guide our children on how to use platforms that they are going to have to master for their careers now. Most importantly, let’s not reinvent the wheel!