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Students Use Websites to Network

By Peter J. Chun

Anyone at Harvard will tell you that successful networking can lead to the internship or job of your dreams.

Now, BranchOut.com and OurSquare.com, two new Web sites devoted to creating an online community of elite schools, have made getting that crucial connection one step easier.

Among their services, the sites allow users to get in touch with one other both professionally and socially.

OurSquare was initially created as an "Ivy League chat room," with a focus on personal rather than professional relationships, according to an article in the Amherst Student.

As OurSquare expanded, James L. Marciano '88, who founded the site began implementing more professional reference, search and classified ad features, the article said.

BranchOut, which was created by David L. Ronick and Lee Newman, links compatible users with data obtained from an on-line questionnaire.

The extensive form contains questions pertaining to current and past academic, professional and social life, any of which may be used to correlate two users. Users have the option to leave any questions they wish unanswered.

Last week, Ronick said that employers who graduated from elite schools seek employees who have similar educational experiences.

"If you're a Harvard grad, you're going to want to find another Harvard grad to work with," Ronick said. "At the same time, if you're looking for a job at a firm, you'd like to know somebody already in that firm, someone to pull for you from the inside. BranchOut works on [this] principle of common bonds."

Both BranchOut and OurSquare are only available to students and alums of what each site terms "the nation's most prestigious universities." BranchOut gives this distinction to 15 schools, OurSquare 17.

Included in this list are all eight Ivy League schools, Duke, MIT, Northwestern, Stanford and the University of Chicago.

BranchOut also includes two large public universities (UC-Berkeley and Michigan), while OurSquare includes four smaller private schools (Amherst, Swarthmore, Wellesley and Williams).

Although BranchOut does not intend to expand the current set of schools, the company does have plans to create additional affinity groups.

Ronick said a site for Jesuit schools is slated for the fall, and another for women's colleges is also a possibility.

Marciano and Ronick stressed that efficiency, not snobbery, was the reason for their exclusiveness.

According to a company press release, BranchOut seeks to provide "a clubby environment that builds on pre-existing social circles."

Such an environment would be weakened by the inclusion of a larger number of schools, Ronick said.

Marciano's OurSquare is less clearly defined as a networking service, calling itself "a gathering place in which to exchange information, ideas and opportunities."

Both BranchOut and OurSquare have attracted thousands of users since their inceptions in February, according to the Web sites

Marciano and Ronick stressed that efficiency, not snobbery, was the reason for their exclusiveness.

According to a company press release, BranchOut seeks to provide "a clubby environment that builds on pre-existing social circles."

Such an environment would be weakened by the inclusion of a larger number of schools, Ronick said.

Marciano's OurSquare is less clearly defined as a networking service, calling itself "a gathering place in which to exchange information, ideas and opportunities."

Both BranchOut and OurSquare have attracted thousands of users since their inceptions in February, according to the Web sites

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