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Parchment Launches College Recommendation Engine So Applicants Can Hedge Their Bets

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Hello, high school juniors. Stressed about graduation next year? Nervous about getting into college? Well Matthew Pittinsky, co-founder of the online education giant Blackboard and current chief executive at Parchment, has some advice for you: Treat your college applications like you would a stock portfolio and hedge your bets. And you can even use a new tool from Parchment to do so.

Today the company launched its college recommendation engine, a tool that takes all of the existing user information Parchment has about you — your GPA, your SAT and ACT scores, your extracurriculars and the list of schools you just have to attend — and crunches numbers to show you just how likely you are to get into those top-choice schools.

The new service also recommends schools that are similar to the ones already on your list. The idea is to diversify your portfolio of would-be colleges to ensure that you get into at least one or two of the schools that’d be a good fit — all while reducing the total number of applications you have to fill out. Because, let’s face it, filling out college applications sucks. It sucked in 1994 when I had to do it and it sucks now. (At least I assume it sucks. Thankfully I haven’t applied to anything other than a job since 1998.)

“We see more and more students applying to more and more colleges,” Pittinsky says. “But, while students apply to more colleges, the colleges are accepting the same number of kids.”

Statistically, the service isn’t perfect. It’s based on the total number of users that are on Parchment. So, in some cases that sample size can be limiting. So far, the company has 1,000 college listings for potential applicants. In cases where the data isn’t there to give would-be applicants a sense of their success or failure in an application, the company’s web site will make that clear, Pittinsky says.

The point is that students won’t have to apply to 10 or 12 schools if they use Parchment’s service, Pittinsky says. Instead, students can target their applications to the schools that are most likely to accept them — based on Parchment’s calculations of students with similar profiles who have been accepted or rejected by the schools on the list.

Fair warning: Some schools, particularly smaller liberal arts schools that put more weight on written essays or personal interviews, don’t align neatly with the company’s predictive analytics.

The company is still going gangbusters with its core business of providing certifications, credentials, transcripts and diplomas to the folks that need them, Pittinsky says.

That was why the company had no trouble raising an additional $10 million tranche for its latest round.