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Friends "Click" Before College

Friends "Click" Before CollegeIncomingfreshmen need no longer wait till September to meet roommatesand friends, thanks to a new online system at Tufts.Medford/Somerville,Mass. [08-23-04]

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [08.23.04] As the countdown to the first day of college continues, incoming freshmen are busy making the necessary preparations: buying dorm gear, visiting the doctor - and making friends online. This year, three-fourths of the incoming Tufts freshmen have been chatting on a forum all summer, meeting future roommates and friends - taking some of the edge off of beginning their college careers in late August.

"They're coming to a place where they don't know anybody, they're nervous about a big change, and getting a head start is an incredible comfort to them," Andrew Sonnenschein, Tufts' associate director of information technology for student services, told The Boston Globe.

Before setting foot on campus, incoming Tufts freshmen can find people with similar interests by going to their class website, Connection2008.

"Three-quarters of incoming freshmen have registered on the class website, Connection 2008, where the most popular feature is "Meet the Class," an online forum through which students can seek classmates with similar interests," reported the Globe.

Through the forum, students have been able to find others of the same religious or ethnic backgrounds, as well as those who enjoy similar activities, from sports to music. Students get to know more about their classmates, and some even decide to room together, easing the anxiety of roommate assignments.

For Johana Oviedo of Miami, Connection2008 enabled her to make a friend from her area, who she could actually meet with before starting school. Oviedo's high school friends had chosen Florida schools, so Oviedo was making the trek up to Tufts alone - until she found Antonia Botero, another Miami 18-year-old going to Tufts.

The two connected after Oviedo posted a message looking for other Columbians. After finding out they had similar pasts, the two met for coffee at Starbucks, where they discovered they also had mutual friends.

"We ended up talking for two hours," Oviedo told The Boston Globe, "There's only so much your family can understand about what you're going through, when you're going somewhere and starting something new."

According to the Globe, specialists say that as beneficial as the sites are to students, they are also beneficial to college admissions because "the online relationships may persuade some students to enroll and could keep them from changing their minds over the summer."

Access to the website is limited to students, who sign in with a password and are able to post a profile with contact information and interests. Online discussions are monitored by admissions staff or older students, who are able to answer questions, if necessary.

The tool is just the latest in a series of initiatives to integrate new technology and the internet with the admissions process.

Already, many students apply online and Tufts was one of the first universities in the country to send every student an email version of their decision letter in addition to the traditional paper version.

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