Just like your smartphone and Instagram can track you and learn your online browsing behavior, you should know that while you peruse through a university’s website, you are most likely being silently watched and studied. Many universities are tracking prospective students through specialized software. More than 50 colleges and universities currently use software from Capture Higher Ed, a company based in Louisville, Kentucky, that tracks how prospective students use university websites. The software tracks through individualized email links sent to you or through personal information you may voluntarily provide on a college’s website. Visitors to the college’s website are given an ‘engagement score’ that depends on how often or how long a person browses. What you really need to know is that when you click on a school’s page with a customized email, your IP address is connected and the school you were visiting online can now see your identity, location, and email. Capture’s software tracks which internet pages you visited and how often, as well as what you did before and after visiting the college’s website. Last year, the company tracked 20 million different web visitors on its clients’ sites.
Does this mean you should spend relentless hours visiting the webpage of your dream school? Well, the claim is that more and more universities are using the digital data to better understand students’ college search process rather than for the school admission process. This “data-mining” enables schools to tailor web content, emails, and text messages to prospective students. However, schools want to admit students who are really interested in them. Even though colleges are claiming not to use the data for the admissions process itself, there’s really no way of knowing how and when they use the data. Therefore, it seems to be in your best interest to play their game. Afterall, it wouldn’t hurt to let them know you’re interested.