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Noticing the Negatives of Naviance

Cartoon by Emma Lu

Cartoon by Emma Lu

By Amanda Shen

“Please check the Naviance website for updates on college visits. University of Michigan, second period tomorrow, Case Western Reserve University, seventh period…” Ever since freshman year, I have glossed over and disregarded these announcements over the loudspeaker every morning. However, there comes a time in every South student’s high school career when this seemingly meaningless babble shifts into something that carries significant weight.

I was recently given a Naviance account during College Night, a rite of passage for many juniors. Those who had even an inkling of where they wanted to attend college almost instantly went on Naviance and searched for statistics pertaining to their college of interest.

Used by schools across the nation, Naviance is designed to assist students in starting their college search and application processes. It is linked to the Common Application, seamlessly facilitating the college application process. According to Naviance’s website, Naviance prepares “students to create a plan for their futures by helping them discover their individual strengths and learning styles and explore college and career options.” Naviance also helps students find schools that will fit them both academically and socially through “My Fit,” a search engine tool that allows students to enter up to 18 factors that go into their college decision, such as financial aid, abundance of clubs and school activities, and population size. Students are then able to rank these factors in terms of personal importance, thereby individualizing the college search process.

In attempting to help students identify schools that will suit them academically, Naviance provides statistics on the application history of students from South to specific colleges and universities. These statistics are displayed on scattergrams that show acceptances, rejections, wait-listings, and deferrals based on individual GPAs and ACT/SAT scores.

At first glance, all this information seems like the makings of an infallible system, equipping students with the means to determine career/college choices and apply to college smoothly. However, these statistics can distort students’ notions about their chances of admission for a particular college.

For starters, students should apply to college confidently. Statistics on Naviance should not discourage anyone from applying, even if his or her statistics fall below the “accepted range.” Furthermore, the sheer fact that no South student has been accepted to a specific college in the last few years should not prevent someone with a true interest from applying. These statistics can create self doubt, adding even more stress to the college application process.

In contrast, these statistics can also foster overconfidence. If students sees that their statistics are above the generally accepted range, they may not bother to apply to other colleges or put less effort into their applications. This overconfidence can encourage an early start to “senioritis” and cause students to start slacking off early into the school year.

Above all, it is important to keep in mind that Naviance’s statistics don’t accurately indicate one’s chances of acceptance: They just offer a rough and unspecific estimation. Naviance even uses our unweighted GPA system, which doesn’t take into account academic rigor. There are so many more factors that go into the college application process, such as essays, interviews, recommendations, and extracurriculars. Naviance affirms this inaccurate idea that students are merely constituted of test scores and GPAs, which—while important—do not provide the complete picture of a student to college admissions officers.

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