CollegeSnapps

CollegeSnapps is a FREE service that intuitively prompts students to engage in and progress through the college application process via a series of SMS text messages while also enabling increased levels of communication between students and their guidance counselors. Our goal is to empower students and equip them with the information they need to make a life-altering decision.

About You

Organization: CollegeSnapps Visit websitemore ↓↑ hide↑ hide

Section 1: You

First Name

Don

Last Name

Fraser

Organization

Country

United States

Section 2: Your Organization

Organization Name

CollegeSnapps

Organization Website

Organization Phone

n/a

Organization Address

Providence, RI

Is your organization a

Not registered

Organization Country

United States, RI

Your idea

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Name Your Project

CollegeSnapps

Country and state your work focuses on

United States, RI

Describe Your Idea

CollegeSnapps is a FREE service that intuitively prompts students to engage in and progress through the college application process via a series of SMS text messages while also enabling increased levels of communication between students and their guidance counselors. Our goal is to empower students and equip them with the information they need to make a life-altering decision.

Innovation

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What makes your idea unique?

CollegeSnapps will address the longstanding gap that exists in the United States between the number of affluent and the number of poor students who enroll in college by providing students from low-income households information that is essential to their applying to college. CollegeSnapps is unique because, in a multibillion dollar industry, it will do what no other college application product on the market is doing, which is to provide a FREE service that intuitively prompts students to engage in and progress through the college application process via a series of SMS text messages. Once a student signs on to the service, they will begin to receive a monthly series of SMS text messages whose content will be based upon where the student is on the college application continuum and will ultimately facilitate their application to college. In addition, by completing each step, the student will accumulate points that are redeemable in our online school store for items such as song downloads, and college paraphernalia.
Because school counselors play an integral role in their students' college application process, students will be continually prompted to invite their school counselor to monitor their progress. If a student chooses to do so, CollegeSnapps will send a Dashboard application to the school counselor so that he/she may track the student’s progression and interact with the student. This will facilitate guidance counselor-student conversations and ensure that both parties have the information they need to navigate the complex college application process.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Yes

Impact

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What impact have you had?

I am a committed scholar-educator in the process of attaining a doctoral degree in Leadership in Urban Schools. I have been in public education for twelve years, serving students in a variety of capacities with the goal of supporting and positively impacting their aspirations to attend college. I teach Master’s level students in Boston University’s Counseling Department and strive to improve the profession at every turn. Over time, I have had the pleasure of participating in the lives of approximately 2000 high school and graduate students, but for the past six years, I have dedicated my energy to working with students from low-income households. More than anything, I want to see them extricate themselves from the cycle of poverty by attaining a college degree. This passion has driven my professional work and has served as my motivation to impact an entire population—not just a handful of students.
I began my career as a guidance counselor, serving 200 students each year from diverse populations. From there, I helped launch Harvard University’s Crimson Summer Academy, a program designed to serve high achieving students from low-income households. Currently, as Director of College Access and Transition, I lead a team of counselors who are responsible for assisting students with their postsecondary planning. During my tenure, we have instilled a strong college-going culture in the flagship high school of a national network of over 80 urban public high schools. My next step is to launch CollegeSnapps, so that I can fulfill my ultimate goal.

Problem

Research shows us that many students from low-income households do not apply to college, even those who are “college-ready” and capable of handling the rigors of college academics (IHEP, CCSR, 2008). This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many students from low-income households have little access to information regarding the college application process. These students are heavily reliant on their school counselors to provide this information, yet these professionals often have caseloads of more than 400 students (NACAC, 2008). In addition, the school counselors have competing duties that impact their ability to dedicate quality time to their students, particularly around the college application process. Through the use of technology, CollegeSnapps will provide students from low-income households a way to get the critical information they need in order to make informed choices about their postsecondary plans as well as to improve guidance counselor-student collaboration.

Actions

We have taken several steps towards making this innovation a success. First, we have created a Limited Liability Corporation in order to name and structure our organization. We have also developed, with the help of a highly established entrepreneur, a business plan for use with investors, grant applications, and other funding streams. We have researched some of the technology available to deliver our product and have begun work on a prototype to roll out in the next six months. In order to protect our invention, we spoke with a patent attorney and submitted a provisional patent application.
Failure is not an option for us. Because of the nature of our project and the dire need, we are committed to seeing this through to implementation. We believe that our project’s ability to produce widespread change will draw out other organizations that are interested in being a part of our mission.

Results

We have set an aggressive timeline for ourselves, which depends on our ability to garner support, both financially and systemically. We believe that with a solid business plan and the connections we already have in the industry, we can convince investors and institutions that CollegeSnapps has the ability to serve the needs of students, guidance counselors and colleges alike. Based upon the work we have done thus far, we have leads on a number of funding streams and believe that we can create and roll out a beta prototype for the fall of 2010. Doing so will allow us to begin working with a small group of students in time for the upcoming college application season, during which time we will collect data in order to assess both the viability of the program as well as address the areas that need attention and further development.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Over the next three years we intend to take CollegeSnapps from initial development to nationwide deployment. In order for this scaling to occur, our product must effectively respond to the unanswered need that resonates from high schools across the country. CollegeSnapps will go through a formative and iterative design process to ensure that it remains responsive to both the initial and evolving needs of our users. Success will also be contingent upon acquiring endorsement and support from “college application stakeholders” such as parents, guidance counselors, and college admissions officers.

Year one will be focused on developing the SMS technology, and the questions/support protocol that students will then experience over the course of their application process. An Alpha prototype will be in the hands of student focus groups by the beginning of July. Results from this initial study will guide the development of the Beta iteration. This second draft must be ready for distribution and use at the beginning of the 2010/2011 school year. A medium-scale implementation will occur at five urban high schools and impact 500 students.

Year two, we will continue the formative design process of our SMS servers, while also working to identify morally appropriate revenue streams to support the continuation of our work. We will also initiate an outreach campaign to promote CollegeSnapps through social media to guidance counselors and college admissions offices. We will also transition into the commercial application scene, and begin to develop platform specific apps. for top selling mobile phones (iPhone, Google’s Android, and Windows Mobile).

Instead of expanding our offerings concurrently in year three, we will instead redouble our efforts to conduct user studies and focus groups in an effort to streamline CollegeSnapps, avoiding complication, and instead crafting a streamlined platform that cleanly scaffolds users through the application process.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

This project’s success would result in a dramatic increase in the number of students from low-income households that apply to and enroll in socially responsible institutions of Higher Education. This is contingent upon a comprehensive design that is aligned with the needs of our users, that responds well to the desires of our secondary stakeholders, and that can be supported in a financially stable manner without deviation from the moral underpinnings of our organizational goals.

CollegeSnapps must simplify the application process, while also working to extrinsically motivate students to engage in an complicated sequence of critical steps that are necessary for enrollment (e.g. taking a college entrance exam, completing the college application or filing for financial aid). Therefore the platform must be both engaging and educational. The key here is simplification, if our product complicates the application process, CollegeSnapps could become a deterrent to the application process.

While the design must be initially drafted to meet the needs of our primary stakeholders (students), it must also meet the needs of the secondary stakeholders (parents, high school guidance counselors, and college admissions officers). Student access and awareness of CollegeSnapps is likely to be driven by the latter group, so it is crucial that we integrate their needs into our organizational goals and the design of our service. We must also work to ensure that CollegeSnapps does not aggravate the existing divide between student and counselor, and instead works to bridge that gap by facilitating communication.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$1000 - 4000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

Sustainability

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What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

In what country?

United States, RI

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

If yes, provide organization name.

How long has this organization been operating?

Less than a year

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?

No

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?

No

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?

No

Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

N/A

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

N/A

The Story

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What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

I am unable to point to a singular, defining “ah-ha” moment that led to this invention. I have been grappling with the notion of sweeping change for students from low-income households since the day I began working in an urban public high school fourteen years ago. I have worked with and witnessed far too many students in urban high schools who live in poverty and are academically talented, yet who do not take the proper steps to apply to college. It haunts me personally and professionally. In a society where credentials matter and a new economy calls for an education beyond high school, when you are poor, a high school diploma is not enough to get ahead—to change your circumstances and the generation's to follow.

As a former guidance counselor turned administrator and counselor-educator, I have watched the notion of applying to college shift from a process to a phenomenon. It has become a multi-billion dollar industry that is designed primarily with the affluent child and family in mind. Students from low-income households have not been catered to or courted in the same fashion, which serves to maintain the status quo. The research demonstrates that little has changed for this group over the past 40 years when it comes to college enrollment. They continually lag behind their wealthier counterparts. To see it graphically is disheartening and supports what I have learned in my day-to-day work.

The current Administration seems very invested in increasing the number of college graduates over the next 10-20 years, therefore the timing is right. Our innovation is not simply a service to students and high schools. Our innovation is an aid to assist a population in desperate need of assistance. It is more than a method to connect kids to college. It is a movement grounded in social justice and equity. It is a result of experience, expertise and a profound sense of urgency—a moral obligation to a population that is easier to ignore than to assist.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Don Fraser, Jr. earned his B.A. in Psychology at Boston College, his Master's of Education in School Psychology at the University of Massachusetts and is working on his Doctorate in Leadership in Urban Schools. Don is a passionate educator foremost whose experiences have been as a guidance counselor for six years at Brookline High School and as Program Specialist for Harvard University's GEAR UP program at Madison Park High School in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Currently, Don is the Director of College Access and Transition at The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, an innovative urban public school serving over 700 students and 120 faculty and staff. In addition, Don was approached to develop curriculum for Harvard University’s critically acclaimed Crimson Summer Academy—a three-year academic program that serves talented students from low-income households in the Boston and Cambridge public and parochial schools. Don designed a 3-year course entitled College Planning and Preparation, taught it for four years and then redesigned it in 2009. In addition, he is an adjunct faculty member at Boston University, an elected official for the New England Association for College Admission Counseling, serves on ACT’s New England Regional Committee, is helping to develop Rhode Island’s “Bachelor’s in 3” pilot, and reads applications for the highly selective Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Conor Shankman is a secondary partner in CollegeSnapps. He is a dedicated educator with seven years experience working in a variety of contexts from rural to urban, private to public, and traditional to vocational. He graduated from Vassar College, where he earned a B.A. in Film Theory and Production and a minor in American Politics. In 2009 he received his M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in “Technology, Innovation, and Education.” His academic focus was on the crossroads of mobile learning, instructional design, and formative evaluation. He is currently employed as the Lead Instructional Technologist for The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, an innovative urban public school serving over 700 students and 120 faculty and staff. Conor also serves on the Rhode Island Department of Education's Instructional Technology Leadership Team, and their Virtual High School Committee.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer

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226 weeks ago Don Fraser updated this Competition Entry.
226 weeks ago Don Fraser updated this Competition Entry.
226 weeks ago Don Fraser updated this Competition Entry.
226 weeks ago Don Fraser submitted this idea.