Now unsupportable mathematics are being applied to something eerily similar to dating - college admissions. The website WiseChoice.com claims to be "your personalized path to college" by using algorithms modeled on those of eHarmony to match prospective college students with colleges that match their academic, social, and career preferences. One New York Times' writer called it "self-discovery through test taking". Using a series of questionnaires designed to measure things like study skills, preferred social setting, desired level of independence, inclination towards religious institutions, and the relative importance of things like school- and class-size, WiseChoice computes a"match percentage" designed to measure how well you would fit in at each school. Additionally, if you give them things like your high school GPA and test scores they will sort your top matches into three categories - "reach", "target", and "safety".
So I thought I'd try it. I entered my data into the site as if I were today exactly as I was when I was applying for college 10 years ago. Here are my top matches from each category:
My top safety school resulted in a three-way tie between College of the Holy Cross, Faulkner University, and Wake Forest. All three of these are religious schools affiliated with the Catholic Church, Church of Christ, and Southeastern Baptist Conference, respectively.
So how does that compare with the colleges I actually considered as a high school senior? Back then I was thinking about a lot of places but there were really four favorites. BYU was the clear front-runner as I had been born in Provo while both of my parents were students there. Stanford was my "reach" school. The University of Oregon was my "safety" school. My last school was sort of an odd-ball pick that was mostly my feeble attempt at doing something no one expected me to do, and that was apply to Washington University in St. Louis. Here's what WiseChoice thought of those 4 schools.
BYU was rated a safety school with an extremely high match percentage. Stanford and Washington U. just missed the cut as reach schools as WiseChoice's lowest recommendation for a reach school was Dartmouth with 83%. And the University of Oregon is apparently so far below my standards that it was rated "extreme safety".
So does this thing really work? It picked up on my pro-religious school preference but not on which religion I preferred. It really didn't pick up on my desire not to sell my internal organs to pay tuition as some of my top matches were extremely pricey. It also had no qualms suggesting several small schools that I had never heard of before, even though I wanted a larger school. So my final verdict is that while it's interesting to see the results, it really is based on "unsupportable mathematics".