Students confused by navigating the college application process are about to get a little bit of help courtesy of University of Southern California researchers. October 29th marked the launch of a free Facebook app that aims to demystify every aspect of the college admissions process from application to financial aid to college interviews. All this information will be packaged and presented to the users as a game.
Such an approach to delivering information is the mission of the Collegegeology Games project. Mission: Admission was created under the auspices of the USC-based group.
The project is a collaboration of the Pullias Center for Higher Education, based at the USC Rossier School of Education, and the Game Innovation Lab at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Mission: Admission takes the form of many popular Facebook apps by allowing the user to guide their avatars through the admissions process. Users get to make choices from where they'll apply to putting together a killer application. The game even provides guidance on how to "pad" the application with things like extracurricular activities and community service. Since keeping the process as close to real life as possible was one of the goals of the game, users also guide their avatars in applying for scholarships and financial aid and requesting faculty recommendation letters.
"We developed Mission: Admission because, for many students — especially first-generation and low-income students — applying to college can be a daunting and overwhelming process," said Zoe Corwin, assistant research professor at USC Rossier and director of research for Collegeology Games. "We wanted to figure out a way to make both the college application and financial aid process more accessible, inspiring and fun."
Games like Mission: Admission could serve to fill a real need especially now that schools, many of which are operating under budget crunches, are shrinking the number of guidance counselors who typically provide college application support to students. The app might be a game, but it could be a seriously useful tool for those working through the sometimes byzantine process on their own — and it's especially true for students who come from families without higher education background. For kids who could be the first in their family to attend college, the entire process might seem especially daunting.
Teacher Leslie Aaronson, who participated in a pilot of the game with her 12th-grade class at Foshay Tech Academy in Los Angeles, said many of her students, excited about the prospect of their avatar being accepted to college, continue to play Mission: Admission at home or during free time at school.
Aaronson said that her students found the game helpful, especially for keeping on top of the many financial aid, testing and application deadlines. She added that the app allowed her class to become "more proactive" about the whole process.