With the help of big data, college admissions offices have begun forming algorithms that predict likely outcomes for individual students (chances the student enrolls if accepted, chances the student will graduate, etc.). This helps schools appeal to the ranking systems many high school parents use to narrow down college choices for their children. With schools pushing themselves higher up the ranking, they are becoming more exclusive, leading to anxiety among high school students.
Data in general can be very helpful as a predictive tool: find scenarios similar to the one at hand, see how those scenarios played out, and you have a pretty good guess at how this one will go. So it makes sense that college admissions offices would want to tap in to this huge pool of big data that is available in order to better their school and help their students. Unfortunately these universities aren’t using the information they’re finding to actually make their schools any better, just more attractive to the ranking systems. Instead of attempting to make their schools more conducive to learning, they are spending huge money on lavish living areas (part of most ranking criteria.) And because one criterion is the percentage of accepted students who enroll, many students are getting rejected simply because the school’s algorithm doesn’t find it likely they will attend. Chances are, however, they are leaving out students who would have attended if accepted. And although SAT scores have not been proven as a great predictor of a student’s success, schools are accepting students with high SAT scores because average SAT score is an easy measurable for ranking systems to utilize.It is obvious that big data is extremely useful and can be applied in almost all situations. Unfortunately when intimate personalized decisions like choice of college get turned into math equations, it can have a negative effect. This problem could be easily solved if people simply stopped looking at theses ranking (they’re not very helpful anyway). Unfortunately, though, people like scores and rankings because they’re easy to look at and quantify things that are hard to quantify. And in this world, companies will give the people what they want. Big data is a superpower, and universities need to start using that power for good instead of evil.