. . .And so much more!

Ever wonder how, no sooner than you register at CommonApp.org and complete a profile, you start receiving emails from colleges?

Apparently, others have been asking themselves the very same question.

One such query -- with corresponding answer -- was posted by the folks at Common App themselves:

I would like to know what information schools see before I submit my application and if they can see other schools to which I'm applying, asks one inquiring mind.

Common App responds:

Schools can see the following information before you submit your application:

  • Your name

  • Your email address

  • Your address

  • Your date of birth

  • Your status: First Year or Transfer

  • The term to which you are applying

Schools may communicate with you before you submit your application.  If you do not wish for schools to do so, please answer "NO" to the following question on the registration page:  "The colleges to which I am applying may communicate with me by email prior to submission of my application."  Schools can only see the information you have filled out for their school and cannot see other schools to which you are applying.

Okay. So this may account for the emails you receive from colleges you have listed on Common App, but the mystery deepens when (a) you have yet to enter a college and the emails begin to arrive in your inbox, and (b) colleges you've never heard of begin to communicate with you.

Now Common App insists that they do not compile data or otherwise share information about you -- obtained either directly from you or incidental to your application -- nor do they sell or otherwise pass it along to, say, member colleges (all of which pay a fee for the privilege of having their applications/supplements as part and parcel of the Common App).

Furthermore, Common App advises that they do not disseminate any information about you whatsoever unless you have given you consent.

So how is it that many students are deluged with mail -- of the snail variety and in electronic form -- before they have ever seen the so-called consent, let alone signed it?

Good question, which is essentially begged by Common App, which stands by their statements and simply says, "Colleges acquire student contact info in lots of ways that have nothing to do with Common App."

Indeed. And we take Common App at its word.

So why the sudden barrage of information post Common App registration?

Common App's response to our query was, "Recruitment." Recruitment? Did colleges pick your name and email address out of the air?

Of course not. There are "lots of ways," as Common App attests, and many sources. In fact, every time you register or sign up online for practically anything college related (think, scholarship search engines, college databases, ACT, College Board), you are creating a very specific online profile to be culled, packaged, bundled and perhaps even sold to third parties who may be, for whatever reason, interested in you -- or your money. [No. Do you think College Board would ever sell my information? Friends, the folks at College Board would sell information on their own mothers if they could make a buck! Don't you doubt it for a minute.]

Can you protect yourself by NOT signing the consent. To some extent, in theory at least. Privacy laws, including FERPA (which governs what schools may and may not disclose), give you some protection. Then again, it seems all you have to do is think about college, and, voila, YOU'VE GOT MAIL lights up like Broadway on opening night. [And keep in mind, you DO want to get communications from colleges you ARE interested in!] 

Every time you sign up, innocently check that box (typically waiving your rights), and hit SUBMIT, somehow, somewhere, you consent to information being collected and redistributed.

Bottom line: Give your consent. Sign the FERPA. Be extra careful as to what you put out there. Make sure (within the realm of reason) that which you are signing up for and consenting to is legit. Never give out more than is asked of you. And be weary of unsolicited emails, particularly those that ask for money, or, for that matter, additional information, such as your Social Security Number.

It's a tangled world wide web out there, folks. Proceed with care. Above all, stay calm and carry on!

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of
The College Whisperer.

Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer knows. . .

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