Something you actually want your teen doing online: LinkedIn opens college doors for minors

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Think about how you picked a college.

You might have had brochures or school representatives to consult. If you were college-shopping in the 1990s, you might have even had websites to browse. But while all those inputs gave you a slick, well-packaged marketing presentation, few could tell you whether going to that school would help you succeed in the real world.

Today, LinkedIn is launching a data-driven method for finding the perfect college, and it’s opening its doors to young college hopefuls — as young as 14, in fact.

Christina Allen heads up higher education products, including today’s big product launch, called University Pages. In a conversation last week, she told VentureBeat, “When you think about how you pick a college, it’s a big commitment of time and money that really shapes your future. Right now, there’s not a lot of information about the outcomes of that.”

In other words, say you’re me 15 years ago, and you want to find a great but affordable music conservatory with a good liberal arts program. LinkedIn’s new university pages can show you what percentage of a school’s alumni are currently working as musicians, as writers, and as waiters. (My college skews to the latter, I believe.) If I’d had this tool 15 years ago, I could have seen that my college was, in reality, a much better choice for music teachers than performers and nurses or biologists than writers.

“We have the alumni in these careers, and they can help these students have a much better set of insights about the choices they make,” said Allen.

Here’s what the New York University page looks like:

NYU Screen Grab

But the alumni module, which was born out of LinkedIn Classmates, is just one (albeit one very important) feature.

Another feature for the youngsters is showing them what kinds of careers are reasonable bets in the modern world. Sure, 15-year-old Hayden loves doing hip-hop dance in her after-school class, but what are the odds she’ll be able to spin that out into a career. We’re sure LinkedIn doesn’t want to crush Hayden’s dreams, but if it does, it’ll give her a more realistic dream to take its place.

“Students have this Village People notion of careers,” said Allen. “They may not know what a data scientist is, but it’s one of the fastest-growing, best jobs you could have.”

Allen continues to note that LinkedIn already counts a lot of parents among its members, and the universities are very interested in making these pages work as recruitment tools. Between those two avenues to entry, she said, “It’s gonna be great to see how they invite students in.”

LinkedIn’s terms of service will be changing now to allow for younger people to access the site. Teens will be allowed to sign up for their own accounts on September 12, 2013.

“We’ve created a very safe environment,” said Allen. “If you’re under 18, your default settings are more private. It puts the onus on the student to reach out.”

This change is a big one for LinkedIn. As the professional network grows, it’s reaching a level of maturity and saturation among adults in developed areas, especially the United States. By opening its doors to millions on millions of teens around the world, the site could be opening itself for a big growth spurt, as well.

What remains to be seen is whether the teenage demographic (outside those annoying A-types like yours truly) want to use LinkedIn to find the perfect school.


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