Looking for the right college can be daunting, especially for students who don't have access to outside counseling or adequate college guidance at their high schools. That’s where services like Applyful and CollegeWeekLive, both based in the Boston area, step in.
Applyful, a new Boston company that has the backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to address the needs of underserved high school students by simplifying the college application process.
“When they’re ready to make the decision to apply to a school, it shouldn’t be a daunting, intimidating process,” said Tony Zanders, the company’s CEO. “They should be more relieved and excited as opposed to stressed and anxious.”
In January this year, the Gates Foundation announced that Applyful had been selected to participate in its College Knowledge Challenge. When the program ended earlier this month with a demo day in Southern California, Applyful was voted into first place among the other contestants.
Applyful works by taking information about colleges that is publicly accessible through the Department of Education and making it available on its own website. It also uses application programming interfaces from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, and features that information on each school’s page on its website.
“If everything works out, college applications will be able to be completed with one clip,” Zanders said.
The website takes an application process involving numerous forms, transcripts, letters, and revisions of various essays – a process that Zanders says takes place mostly offline – and integrates it all into a single place where students can store everything.
There are different roles on the site – student, parent and counselor or teacher – which ensures that a student’s experience won’t be the same as a counselor’s. And while Applyful does aim to streamline the application process, students will still have to submit a separate application to each school they apply to.
“Applyful will still be 12 separate applications,” Zanders said, discussing a hypothetical situation in which a student applies to 12 universities. “The student will still complete 12 essays, tell their story 12 times for 12 universities.”
Applyful currently has 1,609 users in the Boston area, and has been launched in 250 to 300 schools in the nation. Anyone can sign up to use the website, regardless of whether their high school is affiliated with Applyful or not.
CollegeWeekLive brings the experience of visiting college fairs and the colleges themselves to an interactive website that features text and video chats with college reps and college students.
Students who sign up to use the free website have access to online college fairs in addition to events specific to particular colleges. The Needham-based company also offers information on other college-related topics, such as prepping for tests, writing college applications and essays, financing and return on investment.
Video or text chats with representatives from various schools give prospective students a chance to see if they are a good fit for the school, while chats with students attending those schools allow prospective students to size up whether the school is a good fit for them.
After students are accepted, they can take part in pre-orientation and accepted student events
Among the next events planned on CollegeWeekLive are:
- Nov. 21, 2013 – All Access, when all member colleges will be available
- Dec. 12 – All Access
- Jan. 9 – Paying for College
Shandana Mufti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.