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Free Software Matches Students with College Choices

According to the latest data from the American School Counselor Association, there's a single school counselor for every 471 students in this country. The typical student may get only a few minutes with an advisor over the course of his or her high school experience. A new program hopes to help pick up some of the advising slack by guiding students through tasks related to getting into college. Campus Steps is a free matchmaking application that helps students identify appropriate colleges to apply to based on self-reported data, such as academic achievements, assessment scores and future goals.

The database from which it draws matches includes more than 8,500 public and private four-year universities, community colleges and trade and vocational schools.

The software also includes features specifically helpful for high school advisors.

"Students lack the critical support they need to find the right college or vocational school," said Mark Eastwood, Campus Steps general manager. "Campus Steps brings transparency and empowerment to the college admissions process. Just as adults use LinkedIn to manage their professional profiles, our goal is for students to use Campus Steps to manage and track their academic profiles."

In beta since May 2013 and formally launched this week, the software was "incubated" by Campus Explorer, a company with college recruitment technology, and developed by education technology company Learning Core. During the beta the companies worked with five test high schools in the Los Angeles area and has since signed up about 120,000 students.

  The Campus Steps Database includes more than 8,500 public and private four-year universities, community colleges and trade and vocational schools.
The Capmus Steps database includes more than 8,500 public and private four-year universities, community colleges and trade and vocational schools.
 

Campus Steps consists of several functional areas:

  • High School Resume allows students to enter academic information and accomplishments in small increments through their smartphones or a browser;
  • College Matching Wizard displays colleges that fit criteria named by the student, such as the type of college environment sought, expected career path, admissions standards, GPA, SAT and ACT scores as well as participation in extra-curricular activities such as sports, clubs and community service;
  • The "My College Goals Manager" guides students through the creation of a college goal list and the dates and tasks related to the application process;
  • Student Resources provides articles and other resources to answer student questions about college;
  • A "Chance of Admission" Calculator offers an evaluation of the student's chances for gaining admission at selected colleges;
  • A scholarship matcher helps students find relevant scholarships among a database of 1.9 million scholarships worth $7.75 billion; and
  • Counseling Scheduler provides a mechanism for the student to set appointments with advisors.

Campus Steps is also intended to help counselors manage workflow by tracking student appointments, delivering automated messages on critical deadlines related to college applications and tracking students' college search and application plans.

The program is intended to be embedded into a high school's Web site, to serve as a "portal" for students seeking help on applying to college, Eastwood explained. It's "totally simple to set up [and designed] to take as much of that friction out of the process as possible." In fact, 31,000 high schools already exist in the platform, awaiting use, he added, and each is customized with school colors and a logo.

According to Eastwood, the business model for this free service is built on the idea of "recruitment marketing." "What our system does very well is profile students and help schools reach students that they want to reach. That's how it works," he said. For example, sponsoring schools that fit the criteria may surface higher in the results for students than other schools.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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