Never mind the IRS scrutinizing not-for-profit organizations, or the Justice Department tapping phone lines at media outlets. And forget about the NSA mining your phone records and reading your emails. 

No sir. The plot is much more sinister and insidious. It involves information and data so personal that even your own high school can't release it without authorization. Records you believed were safe from prying eyes (not to mention, money-grubbing corporations) being compiled, culled, shared and, yes, sold, not for the sake of national security, but, chiefly, for the benefit of the private entities that collect such information.

And who, you may ask, perpetrates such an invasive and perverse violation of the Fourth Amendment? None other than the likes of College Board, Common App, and all too many of those sites where you register for scholarships, college tours, online forums, and on and on.

Ever wonder where colleges, lenders, purveyors of all things campus got your email address? How you ended up on the list of hot prospects at a college you've never even heard of? Why, suddenly, a school is looking for "students like you?"

Yes, sometimes it's not paranoia. You actually are being watched.

Every time you complete an online form, you unwittingly provide information that may be shared -- and, in many cases, sold (look, that "not-for-profit" College Board has to be able to pay it's top execs six -- or seven -- figure salaries, after all). 

Ever notice, having searched the Internet for, say, salted peanuts or single-seat kayaks (Father's Day hint :-), your future, unrelated website visits always display ads for salted peanuts and single-seat kayaks? Coincidence? We don't think so!

Students are often admonished to be extremely careful about what they post online. From Facebook to Twitter, what happens on the Internet not only stays on the Internet. It can be and often is viewed by others -- including college admissions officers -- who may not "like" what they see or read.

So, too, must students and parents be vigilant about what information they may unwittingly provide online when completing registrations, applying for scholarships, and even simply requesting information. Much of what is compiled about you can be beneficial, or, if nothing more, innocuous. [Think, email you continue to receive from a school you never applied to, five years after you've graduated from college.] On the other hand, some information, stats, scores and personal data (um, Social Security Number, perhaps?) is best kept personal, and out of the hands of those who would pry -- and perhaps prey -- upon the unsuspecting.

As for the IRS (no doubt reading this missive as we post), how about taking a closer look at the not-for-profit status of College Board? We'd like to be such a "not-for-profit!' Or, as my father-in-law used to say whenever he went to COSTCO, "I'd like to have one of their cash registers for a day!"

Be safe. Be prepared. Be accepted to the college of your choice!

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College WhispererWho knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer knows. . .

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