Student Data and the Transition to College

If organizations collecting and advocating for student data use want to make a difference in helping students transition to college, there are two things they could do pretty immediately that would have an immediate impact on reducing barriers to attending and transitioning into college:

  • Pre-seed the Common Application with information from the district and/or state level datastores; and
  • Pre-seed the Federal Student Aid form with data from district and/or state level datastores.

I suspect that some vendors are already doing this, especially with products that are marketed to the independent school world.

There are practical hurdles around privacy that need to be considered, as well as details like the PIN required to use federal education web sites. But the process of applying to college is pretty paperwork intensive, and one thing data systems are good at is eliminating needless repetition around duplicate data entry.

On the technical side, I don't think that either the FAFSA or the Common App web sites have an API to simplify this type of automation. I would love to be wrong here.

Given that district and state level datastores are currently in use and have all this information, we should leverage them to minimize barriers for students between high school and college. College applicants would still need to do work to complete these forms, but the repetitive elements could be eliminated.

If there are organizations currently working on this type of integration, please, let me know - I would love to learn more about them. I suspect that there is effort underway to do something like what I'm talking about here, but that I haven't heard about it yet.


As far as I know states are not yet collecting the sort of detailed income/wealth information that is necessary for the college aid applications, and I would not advocate that they do so. Instead a better proposal would be too considerably simplify those apps. As for pre-seeding the college apps, it is far better that students and parents control the information transmitted to colleges. Many are already worried that the detailed disability and disciplinary info that NY state is now collecting should never be shared with colleges -- or anyone outside the school setting -- without their consent.

Completely agree that income data should not be available, and also agree that simplifying the apps would be a good step as well.

However, even something as simple as populating contact info and creating an account on both sites (the Common App and FAFSA) would eliminate barriers.

Ideas like this take time and planning to do well, and it's possible that after some discovery that this type of integration wouldn't work, but if it has the ability to reduce barriers to access in ways that don't compromise learner control, it's worth looking at.

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