Thursday, December 1, 2011


Given that it's December 1st And I posted every day for the last 30 days should I take a break today? Nah!

Today's post continues on the topic of all the crap I'm learning helping my eldest (HSS) navigate through the college application process. One of the things that surprised me was that, outside of the massive poundage of mailings from colleges, there has been no paper involved in any of the eight college applications that are done or in progress.

When I say no paperwork, I'm including the parts of the application that HSS fills out, the transcripts that the high school sends out and the letters of recommendation that teachers submit as well. I have no idea if this is the way it has been for years or if this is something new. I know that last year there was all sorts of brouhaha about one school not sending out transcripts and parents and students being shocked and dismayed, so I'm guessing this is kind of new.

The two big tools that we've interacted with that make this "all on line" approach navigable, and actually fairly easy to negotiate, are the Common Application and Naviance. The Common App is driven by the colleges and seems to depend on a level of cooperation between the schools to have at least the main core of information requested be common. It makes sense and seven of the eight colleges being applied to accepted the Common App. The only exception was University of Maryland at College Park and I suppose when you're as big as they are plus have as high rankings as they do, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Even so, their application was on line, so even though it meant duplicating a lot of entry work, all of the applications were completed on line.

The other tool, Naviance, is less obvious to me. What I've seen of it (actually HSS has the password and does all the Naviance navigation, so really I should say what I've heard of it) has all been about picking schools to apply to, requesting transcripts and recommendations, and checking status of transcripts and recommendations. For someone like me, who tends to worry a bit too much, the fact that HSS can check status of these things is wonderful.

When I called a college to check on a visit/interview appointment (I would have had HSS do it, but there's school during normal office hours and no email had come through yet), I asked about the status of HSS's application, and that "according to some sort of on-line thing the school uses everything should be OK.". The counselor said, "Oh, you mean Naviance? That's what everybody uses." It struck me that a little web investigation might be interesting.

So, I guess Naviance does much more than track college application status. There's all sorts of stuff about plans and data and engaging parents. News to me. Then I checked their "In the news" section and found the title "Baltimore City Public Schools Selects Naviance to Empower 23,000 Urban Maryland Students to Become College and Career Ready" with a story dated September 22, 2011. Sounds cool to me, but I wouldn't have minded hearing something about it and what exactly the vision is for usage.

I suppose the concept is that in high school this is more of an issue to be communicated with students than with parents. I would have been interested, and I actually still am. Is this tool in use in all high schools in the city? Is it being used to "unite students, families, teachers, counselors and administrators in a collaborative partnership to promote, measure and improve college and career readiness"? Beyond just tracking college applications?

Don't get me wrong, I am totally grateful to be able to track college applications, but it seems like Naviance is about a bunch more and I wonder if there's something I'm supposed to be doing with it that I'm not because I've gotten no information. Especially in terms of my kids that are not high school seniors yet.


  1. Our students are using it starting as sophomores, and it wouldn't surprise me if they go down to 9th grade. Not for college stuff, but other things.

    I like it, but haven't received any specialized training in it. So far, as a teacher, I've only use it to upload letters of recommendation. It's very convenient that when a kid asks you for one, you can see their resume right there as well, and see when your letter is actually due.

    Parent portal use seems to be in swing, though not full swing. I'm getting plenty of e-mails from parents about it. That's sort of the opposite of Naviance, as they're not letting the kids in to see their grades but are letting the parents in.

  2. Parent portal... now there's a topic for another post. Considering all the crap I do on computers and websites, I feel pretty savvy about this stuff. Three long and random number and/or letters assigned that I've got to keep track of (per kid) and then after starting an account with one kid, trying to add another, and no online help and I'm supposed to call someone...yuck. Like I say, another post.


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