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Some colleges are tracking students before they even apply

Douglas MacMillan explains how colleges track potential students before they even apply. Alex Andrejev follows a video-game designer’s path from refugee to CEO. And Louisa Loveluck on the young people who feel locked out of Iraq’s political system.
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Post Reports is the daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Everything you’ve come to expect from the newsroom of The Post -- for your ears.

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Why some colleges secretly track potential students online
Universities are collecting more data about prospective students than ever before — in part, administrators say, to help better predict which students are most likely to apply, accept an offer and enroll in classes. It’s a trend that could raise a hidden barrier for underprivileged students seeking a college education, says business reporter Douglas MacMillan

Administrators say that the information — gathered through tracking software from outside consulting companies — does not affect final admissions decisions. 

“They’re doing things like looking at, ‘Is this person going to our athletics page,’ because maybe that will show they are interested in a sports scholarship,” MacMillan says. “Or, ‘Is this person spending a lot of time on the financial aid website,’ because that indicates they are somebody who is going to need more financial aid when they apply to the school.”

While colleges have used data for many years to decide which regions and high schools to target with recruiting, the latest tools let them build rich profiles on individual students and quickly determine whether they have enough family income to help schools meet revenue goals. Administrators say that the information gathered does not affect final admissions decisions. 

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The video-game industry is focusing on human impact
Lual Mayen does a lot of his coding from a comfy chair at a Washington, D.C., WeWork. The trendy office space is a far cry from where he grew up and first started designing games — a refugee camp in northern Uganda that housed his family for more than two decades. 

Now in the United States, Mayen has made it his mission to spread peace and empathy through video games like his computer game, Salaam, which walks players through the refugee experience.

“It’s a very real scenario and situation,” says sports reporter Alex Andrejev. “He personally was hiding from falling bombs, and so were his friends in the refugee camp.”

His game, Andrejev says, is just one of a growing number of social-impact games that the video-game industry is investing in now.

“As many as 90 percent of teens say they play video games,” Andrejev says. “And with that comes the opportunity for more young people to play and start building these empathetic reactions and learn conflict resolution.”

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Unemployment, corruption and a lack of social services revive protests in Iraq
The recent wave of protests to hit Iraq has left more than 100 dead and thousands injured, marking a conclusion to protests calling for the end of a political system that has existed since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. 

Baghdad bureau chief Louisa Loveluck says many of the protesters across Baghdad and much of southern Iraq are young, not old enough to remember a time before the invasion and fall of Hussein.

“They say they feel locked out of a system that’s been built for people with political connections,” Loveluck says. “They want jobs, they want services, they want a decent health system and they want access to an education that will actually get them somewhere.” 

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About Post Reports

Post Reports is the daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Everything you’ve come to expect from the newsroom of The Post -- for your ears.