You should know that while you peruse a university’s website, that website is likely being silently watching and studying you. Many universities track prospective students through specialized software. This is similar to how your smartphone and social media track you and learn your online browsing behavior.
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 you through individualized email links or through personal information you may voluntarily provide on their website. The software gives an ‘engagement score’ to visitors to the college’s website that depends on how often or how long a person browses. When you click on a school’s page with a customized email, your IP address connects. Then, the school you visited 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.
What Does This Mean for You?
Does this mean you should spend relentless hours visiting the webpage of your dream school? Universities claim they 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.
Even though colleges claim 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. After all, it doesn’t hurt to let them know you’re interested.