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Leaving College Confidential Final Thoughts

I intend this to be my final post to College Confidential (CC). Due to the excessively restrictive posting policies here, I cannot communicate in a way that does not become excessively laborious for me. Fortunately, my posting history combined with good search engines outside CC should tell what I want aspiring engineering and NCSSM students to know provided they bother themselves with the search. My user name is my real name and I use it wherever I go. If you need to contact me, you can find me easily enough.

Before I post my final thoughts about NCSSM, I want to share an extensive analysis of the CC forum itself. It holds the promise of a clearinghouse of useful information for students seeking the best possible educational fit for themselves. However, it also aims to make a profit through advertising. Other social media sites earn advertising revenues through creative methods that still allow posters much leeway in how they communicate. By that, I mean that posters can share links, recommend useful books, products, and other services, and generally speak their minds freely. The best ones exercise very light moderation to remove obvious off-topic spammers and other trolls. Unfortunately, CC long ago embraced a completely different business model and has essentially become enslaved to that model for better or for worse. I learned this the hard way when my sharing of such information netted me a slap in the face with a one-month "timeout" inflicted by an aggressive moderator who sniped privately, "CC does not offer free advertising."

As you can imagine, I felt quite miffed at this insult, so I attempted to contact the site owners directly. After completing the CC Web site feedback form and receiving no response, I resorted to calling directly the site owners at Hobsons, Inc., based in Cincinnati, Ohio, only to find myself on perpetual hold or cut entirely before even able to leave a voice mail. I next visited the Better Business Bureau (BBB) site and noted that the company had recently become a member of the BBB. To get their attention, I filed a complaint.

To its credit, Hobsons actually made good on its BBB membership promise and responded very politely to my complaint. The company product manager was very courteous. We arranged a teleconference lasting 30 minutes with one of the co-founders of CC who has since sold CC to Hobsons. He carefully explained the business model to me in a way understandable to the lay person. At the end of the call, the product manager lifted my posting ban nearly a week early.

Users of the CC forum need to understand one aspect of CC they may find too onerous to warrant continued participation. The forum format does not allow the use of graphics or videos, thus forcing participants to say in a thousand words what they could say in a single picture. It does not allow linking to "non-authoritative" sources even though such sources frequently offer insight that "authoritative" sources do not. It forbids not only the linking to books, products, or services, but even their mention by name since such mentioning qualifies as "promoting" and "free advertising" of such materials. In short, CC wants users to expend precious time and energy creating content original to CC so that CC can make advertising dollars through the unpaid efforts of its users. Not only does CC want this, but it wants to do all it can to encourage traffic to its site while discouraging traffic from its site. While it has no qualms whatsoever with others linking to CC, it objects in harsh ways to the converse.

Did everyone get that? The company wants to make money by creating a set of rules that force anyone participating to work essentially for free creating content for the CC forum site. Hobsons wants CC to become a "one stop shopping experience" by creating posting rules so onerous that any poster desiring to participate must expend a large margin of additional effort to say in many cumbersome words what the poster could say with a simple reference to a "non-authoritative" source or a "promotion" of a book or video.

What effects will these rules actually have on the CC forum experience? For starters, posters will find themselves caught off-guard by moderators who evidently get a rush from the sense of power and control they enjoy as moderators. Moreover, posters who have a life outside CC will not bother to share useful information inside CC since the posting rules demand, in the name of "creating profitable original content," the writing of many more words than needed to convey answers to questions. Ironically, those who do post useful information compliant with CC rules most likely will qualify as "non-authoritative" sources themselves. This means:

That which CC despises, CC becomes.

The bottom line is that students seeking answers need to look far beyond CC using standard search engine practices to locate answers to their questions. Although CC can make a good start, current conditions guarantee that it has no hope of becoming the "one stop shopping" clearinghouse of information it envisions for itself. Users will necessarily receive highly truncated and severely incomplete answers to their questions, mostly from non-authoritative sources, because of restrictive CC policies. This motivates me to discontinue my support of CC. While I understand that CC needs to make money in some fashion just to operate the site, I consider its heavy-handed moderation approach personally unacceptable and unworthy of further participation, especially when other social media sites have shown it unnecessary. If CC wants "original content" for advertising dollars so badly, they should forego forums altogether in favor of traditional "articles with comments" instead. Since self-actualization represents the only "payment" forum users get, and since the policies restrict even that payment beyond the bounds of reason, I see no point in exerting the effort.

***

Students seeking attendance at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) have numerous motives to apply. Many of these stem from the terrible conditions at their current high schools filled with dysfunctional students and even from homes filled with dysfunctional families, not to mention small towns filled with small minds. Indeed, as poster "Shanidar" has noted elsewhere on the CC forum, NCSSM has some "hurting" students seeking escape from psychologically toxic environments. Applicants should search the CC forum for posts by "Shanidar" for worst case scenarios at NCSSM.

As for my own experiences, readers can also search through my posts to get my two cents' worth. The bottom line is that NCSSM taught me the hard way that it is better to work smarter than to work harder. By working smarter, I mean weighing the total benefits and detriments of all alternatives to get the best mix of them. I find it difficult to convey just how hard the NCSSM residential program can be. The main benefit is the other students, not the academics, though both raise the bar orders of magnitude above any "normal" high school. Many alumni will cheerfully tell you that NCSSM was the hardest yet most rewarding two years of their lives. They will further share that they did not experience that level of challenge either academically or socially until graduate school. I have heard some say they found Ivy League colleges easier than NCSSM.

In any case, I have yet to see a convincing argument that an NCSSM high school diploma has any more market value than a community college associate diploma of comparable core classes. Applicants to NCSSM need to understand they are embarking to climb the Mount Everest of North Carolina high schools. Like Mount Everest, NCSSM leaves a trail of bodies to the peak and back of participants who hoped to conquer the peak only to have the peak conquer them. I will even go so far as to argue that the chances of getting a "full ride" scholarship to a university are greater in a "normal" high school than at NCSSM, though I would have a hard time proving that statement conclusively. I can definitely say that earning college credit through other "normal" programs like Advanced Placement or North Carolina Career and College Promise is far easier than at NCSSM.

Download and study the NCSSM Student Handbook carefully and decide if your parents are really the controlling louts you think they are compared to the impersonal "in loco parentis" administration at a state boarding school. Decide if you want personal degradation from those who have power and enjoy inflicting it on others. Decide if you want to spend evenings slaving to complete heavy workloads that earn you less college credit than you could earn where you are now.

I could point to an article that shows graphically a schedule comparison between a "normal" high school and an NCSSM schedule. But that would constitute "promotion" and "free advertising." So I will not do that. You will have to suffer in ignorance as a result.

I could share the name of the novel set at NCSSM and encourage applicants to purchase and read it. But that would constitute "promotion" and "free advertising." So I will not do that. You will have to suffer in ignorance as a result.

I could share the name of a sure-fire study guide that has helped many students to achieve success in a challenging academic environment like NCSSM. But that would constitute "promotion" and "free advertising." So I will not do that. You will have to suffer in ignorance as a result.

I could share the name of a book that helps students new to boarding school to deal with difficult roommates. But that would constitute "promotion" and "free advertising." So I will not do that. You will have to suffer in ignorance as a result.

I could share the name of a video that shows how to measure total benefits and detriments of NCSSM versus its alternatives, or a sequel video that shows how to slash tens of thousands of dollars from college using NCSSM resources, or yet another video to show how to make the most of engineering school. But that would constitute "promotion" and "free advertising." So I will not do that. You will have to suffer in ignorance as a result.

Do not blame me for these omissions. Blame CC. Their policies enforce these "crimes of omission" and the consequent sufferings through ignorance that result.

Whether this post will remain untouched or find itself censored remains to see. I will replicate it elsewhere to one or more sites more under my control to assure that search engines locate my comments for evaluation. Regardless, the Cincinnati BBB complaint remains a matter of public record. Anyone who wishes to locate and contact them to read the complaint and its resolution may do so.

Whatever happens, know that my motives were always to help people in ways that I wished others had helped me. Any "self-promotion" that happened occurred purely as a byproduct. But I will not play Atlas carrying a burden that grows heavier and still heavier for no good cause. The time has come to shrug.

To those I left behind, good luck in your endeavors.

(NOTE: As expected, moderators immediately deleted this post from CC, banned me for life, blocked my IP address, and deleted my entire CC posting history!)