Alums Predict College Acceptances Online

Critics say computer

Grant M. Ujifusa ’65 and Richard P. Sorensen ’65 are anxiously awaiting the admissions decisions of Harvard, Yale, and 78 other universities around the country.

But while the two do have children of their own, it’s the fate of their brainchild—a website that projects students’ chances at getting into schools around the country—that they are interested in.

Anxious students have been logging onto—and paying the $79.95 fee for—thickenvelope.com since the site went live on December 22.

Students fill out a lengthy application modeled on many college applications: sections focus on academic achievement and test scores, participation in extracurricular activities and athletics, teacher recommendations or unique talents. 

The site then uses an algorithm to calculate the likelihood—in the form of a percentage or a percentage range—that a student will be admitted to a certain school.

Ujifusa said he and Sorensen designed the site to give students and parents an idea of a student’s probability of admission to a range of schools, and thus ease some of the anxiety of the application process.

“We came up with the idea when we were both talking at lunch one day about the anxieties that are part of being a parent during the college application process,” Ujifusa said.

The two met as first-years at Harvard, where they were roommates. Sorensen, a consultant for Morgan Stanley, is a former Rhodes scholar and served as an assistant director of admissions at Harvard. Ujifusa works as a political consultant. Both were Crimson editors.

Ujifusa admitted that when he and Sorensen originally developed the idea they saw it as revolutionary, but he added that they soon realized they were not exactly pioneers. 

Other companies, including the Princeton Review and FastWeb, provide similar services.

“When we had the joint epiphany, we thought we had invented the wheel, but soon we realized the idea was already out there,” Ujifusa said.

Though other sites provide the same service, Ujifusa and Sorensen said their enterprise takes into account such factors as teacher recommendations, unique talents and nationally recognized achievements. 

Additionally, the site gives customers percentages of their likely acceptance, while services like the Princeton Review just group schools into categories like “safety,” “reach” and “good fit.”

“We feel pretty confident about the process,” Ujifusa said.

But the site has already drawn criticism both from competitors and those in the educational community.

Rob J. Franek, editorial director for the Princeton Review, said he believes students should have free access to the service that thickenvelope.com offers. According to Franek, his company provides a similar service through their Counselor-O-Matic, which scans a student’s application against a database of 3,000 colleges and universities nationwide.