Will You Get Accepted? Web Sites Say They Can Predict Chances; but at Least One Veteran Guidance Counselor Says They're "A Waste of Time."

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH KORMANIK, Times-Union staff

A crop of new Web sites cater to the anxieties of college-bound high school seniors who can't wait until April to get word from admissions departments or want Vegas-style odds on whether they're bound for the Ivy League or State U.

"The whole time after you apply, you sit there wondering, will I get in, will I get in?" said Jamie Reeves, a senior at Lee High School in Jacksonville. "If you go to a site and see their prediction, it's a lot easier waiting for your acceptance letter."

Reeves hasn't used the sites -- yet. The cyber-savvy teen said she planned to check out the sites for some peace of mind. But not everyone agrees the sites help students in the often subjective world of college admissions.

The sites work like this: Students fill out a questionnaire with their standardized test scores, grade-point average, class-rank and activities. Some sites may ask more detailed questions about teacher recommendations, special awards and community service. Then they compare the profile to the typical admitted student at a college and pre- dict the chances of admission there.

Take the example of a fictional high school senior. She scored a 970 on the SAT and a 20 on the ACT and her grades put her in the top half of her class at a public high school. She takes two honors classes and spends 20 hours a week participating in clubs, sports and working at her after-school job. She has one leadership position in those activ- ities.

According to collegedata. com, that makes the University of Florida a "reach," while the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University are "maybes." She would be "a good bet" at Edward Waters College.

Bob Turba, chairman of counseling services at Stanton College Preparatory School, calls such Web sites "a waste of time."

"It's oversimplifying the process, and it can give students either a false sense of promise or dismay," he said. "That is really short-circuiting the process of how a student gets into college."

Turba gave the example of two Stanton students who applied to the University of Florida last year. One student scored 1,400 on the SAT and had a 3.8 grade-point average. The other scored 1,100 and had a 3.2. Guess who was admitted? The student with lower scores. Turba contacted Florida's admissions staff, who told him the second student had a better overall application -- the essay, recommendations and activities made the difference.

But the sites claim to help students narrow their college options or provide a second opinion after a parent or guidance counselor offers advice. The sites often charge less money than professional college coaches, who could charge thousands of dollars and claim to offer a customized eval- uation.

The pitch from ThickEnvelope.com also takes advantage of the shortage of guidance counselors at most schools.

"If you have a guidance counselor who's dedicated and has known you for three or four years and works closely with you, that's like having your personal doctor," said Grant Uji- fusa of ThickEnvelope. "There's nothing that can replicate that. Sometimes, however, you have these people who are very dedicated but overworked."

At Stanton, for example, about 1,520 students share four guidance counselors. …