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A few weeks ago, I was asked the following question via email: “I am wondering if you would be able to get a person’s education history and degrees, etc., with just their name and date of birth?”

Like all good questions, the answer is maybe.

First, there is no simple database in which you can type in a person’s name and date of birth to reveal their education-related history or degree information. It just simply doesn’t exist.

If an investigator, or anyone else for that matter, is trying to determine where someone went to school, there are a couple of places that they should look:

Social Media

People say the darndest things on social media, including where they went to school. And even if they don’t specifically disclose their education history, they may like, tweet or follow their favorite school(s), which might offer you a pretty good clue.

Self-Reported Biographies

Business websites, nonprofit agencies and even personal websites can be a gold mine of education-related history. Even if the business/personal/nonprofit site is no longer operational, you may find it stashed away on the Wayback Machine.

Newspaper Articles

Once upon a time, companies would issue a press release anytime a new executive position was filled, with the details of the new executive’s work and education history. Today, that’s usually reserved for really high-level positions with larger companies, but you can still find job announcements, profile pieces or college graduation announcements in newspaper archives.

Resumes/CVs

Nearly everyone has a resume or a curriculum vitae, but it may not be so easy to find. For example, I have one, but it hasn’t been updated in more than six years and is not available on the Web. Many people use LinkedIn as their resume these days, so that’s a good place to start (here are some tips to search LinkedIn like a pro).

Indeed.com, one of the largest repositories of resume and job information, has a free resume search. Other massive repositories of resumes, including Monster.com and Dice.com, require a subscription in order to access their resume database.

Googling

It’s always worth doing a quick Google search for the person’s name, along with the words “resume,” “CV” and “curriculum vitae.” You might be surprised by what you find.

I would also do some Google searches with the words “alumni,” “university” or “college”—you just may get lucky and find an old alumni magazine or posting on Classmates.com.

If All Else Fails

If all else fails, one final trick I would use is to identify the subject’s address history from when the person was in their late teens and early twenties, which will often give a clue as to where the person went to school, especially if it’s in some remote town far away from where they grew up.

Verifying the Degree

Of course, since all of this information is self-reported, this doesn’t confirm that the student actually attended or graduated from the school. For that, you will need to contact the school directly. Most schools in the United States outsource the degree verification process through the National Student Clearinghouse.

Even though the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) considers the degree and dates of attendance “directory information” that may be disclosed to the public, National Student Clearinghouse will only release the information for specific purposes, such as employment or self-verification. I have found the some schools are sympathetic and are willing to provide the verification over the phone.

In Summary…

So, there you have it. There is no simple database that will reveal someone’s education history by using just their name and date of birth, but there are indeed ways to identify a person’s education history with a little ingenuity and know-how.

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2 replies
  1. JoEllen Marsh
    JoEllen Marsh says:

    Great article! These are a lot of the same tips and tricks our analysts use. When checking social media, it’s also really useful to scroll through a subject’s friends and followers lists and look for common schools. Even if the subject hasn’t disclosed their education history, a lot of their friends from college probably have.

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