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CampusSplash aims to ‘close the information gap’ in college counseling

Students who are soon to graduate from high school now can get free college advice on

High school students won’t need the best college counseling money can buy when all their questions are answered for free online. At least, that’s the hope of officials at

CampusSplash, a website best known for ranking the top-20 most Googled colleges and universities, unveiled Aug. 10 a counseling service that lets prospective college students search for their desired schools, submit questions to counselors, alums, current students, and campus admissions officers, and peruse through the thousands of questions already asked—and the subsequent answers.

Allen Gannet, cofounder of Washington, D.C.-based Splash Networks, which operates CampusSplash, said that “basically every college in the country” would be included in the new counseling database.

Gannet said the counseling site—answering questions ranging from campus housing to the strength of certain academic programs—would help “close the information gap” between low- and middle-income students and their wealthy counterparts.

A public school student who gets her college application advice from a school counselor who also helps dozens of other students will always be at a disadvantage relative to students who receive guidance from private counselors, who have a fraction of the workload and are paid thousands of dollars annually for every student they help, Gannet said.

The country’s priciest college counselors charge more than $30,000 a year, according to industry reports.

“Too many students are using an overwhelmed guidance counselor for their help,” Gannet said. “It’s not just an inequality issue, it’s also a very solvable issue using technology. … This is something, we hope, that could make private college counselors irrelevant.”

The average postsecondary U.S. public school has a student-counselor ratio of 460 to 1, according to 2008 statistics from the American School Counselor Association.

The association recommends a ratio of 250 to 1.

A proliferation of web-based advising sites like and has coincided with a national jump in college applications, according to the 2009 State of College Admissions report, released by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling in October.

The report, which used statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, showed that the average acceptance rate at four-year universities and colleges dropped from 71.3 percent in 2001 to 66.8 percent in 2007. This was partly owing to the 24-percent rise in applicants during that six-year span, according to the report.

Veteran public school counselors who have dozens of high school seniors on their caseload often become so comfortable with the application process at a handful of colleges that they don’t help applicants explore campuses they’re unfamiliar with, Gannet said.

“You don’t get all the information you need, and it’s not their fault, it’s a budget issue,” he said. “There’s just not enough time in the day.”

If a student is interested in applying to the University of Maryland, College Park, for example, a quick search on CampusSplash will turn up a list of questions that have already been asked and answered.

A question about the best majors at UMD’s main campus will turn up a host of answers, as will a query about the school’s Greek life, application deadlines, and availability of off-campus housing.

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Denny Carter

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