On Sept. 24, 2009, ConnectEdu launched the SuperApp, described in a press release as “complete, paperless application package for students, parents, high schools and colleges.”
The SuperApp aims to solve the fragmentation of the application process with a unified, comprehensive application, as well as dealing with some profound and recurring challenges faced by high schools and guidance counselors working to help low-income and disadvantaged youth attend college.
Applying to college usually amounts to managing a large volume of documents under the pressure of deadlines. The process often includes school specific questions, varying deadlines and requirements, which can be difficult to keep track of.
The often tedious application process has led to students to increasingly favor the Common Application, a standardized application form which is mostly submitted online that can sent sent to any number of the nearly 400 participating institutions.
While the Common Application has facilitated student’s capacity to apply to many schools without the having to fill out many similar forms from different colleges, students are still responsible for submitting their transcripts, test scores and answers to school-specific questions. Managing school-specific supplements can make the Common Application much less convenient. The Common Application cannot be sent to any non-member institutions, which excludes many schools that are often attended by low-income students. This is a disadvantage for students at a time when young people are spending more and more time online.
Eleni Bazos, guidance department chair at Central High School in Springfield said, “Online applications work really well for our kids. The main issue we face again and again in helping students apply to college is they don’t always let us know when they’ve applied. They don’t always tell us and then they’re upset and ask, ‘Why didn’t you send out my test results or transcript?’ This happens all the time.”
“Counselors are responsible for their students but they have no window into the process,” said Daryl Slater, ConnectEdu marketing programs manager. “All they know is hearsay from the student, so having a dashboard where they can see all the information, test scores, GPAs, deadlines, allows them to help students stay on track, meet their deadlines and meet up with other requirements.”
Craig Powell, President and CEO of ConnectEdu emphasized the importance of making the college application process as reliable and efficient as possible for the benefit of students and universities alike.
“It will drastically reduces the costs of admissions departments just by relieving them from processing lots of disparate information,” Powell said.
The SuperApp creates a direct link from high schools to colleges, where universities receive verified high school data, as opposed to self-reported data that may or may not be accurate and get it together in a complete bundle from a single source.
This intends to eliminate issues with losing documents, not receiving transcripts or having difficulty managing a student’s application that arrives piece by piece.
Students still need to take the initiative to complete their applications but with SuperApp, the steps are all laid out on a single page, allowing both students and counselors a complete overview of progress and making the next steps easy to identify.
Powell used a Facebook analogy to explain the relationship between a student’s application and the counselor’s access to that application referenced by Slater.
“Just as when you have your own page on Facebook that allows you to access certain parts of another user’s page, and vice versa, students and counselors will have their own page where specific information crucial to the application process is available.”
“Right now, we’re working with about 1100 colleges and 2300 high schools,” Powell said. “Those 2300 high schools represent about 25 percent of the nation’s population attending high school.”
ConnectEdu has established working ties in regions with many urban high schools with educational access issues including Baltimore Public Schools, Cleveland Public Schools and the Houston Independent School district.
“Our kids [ConnectEdu's network] can apply to very selective institutions with SuperApp, just as easily as to not so selective, even open admissions type Schools,” Powell said. “What’s important is that access to higher education is as direct and efficient as possible, whether we’re talking Yale or Harvard or a local community college.”
Students and counselors can also manage fee waiver processes through SuperApp.
“Some of the participating colleges have dropped their admission fees altogether for students who use SuperApp, simply because it saves admissions so much in processing by virtue of its efficiency,” Powell said. The ConnectEdu network includes 70 Massachusetts high schools, and 30 state colleges. The University of Massachusetts Boston, Lowell and Dartmouth are part of the network but UMass Amherst is not yet signed on.
Kevin Kelly, director of admissions at UMass said, “On a purely hypothetical level, we’re for anything that helps receive application materials, review and select candidates, but the devil is in the details – what will new products or technologies cost us, what they will cost students.”
Kelly added, “Last year we received 34,000 freshmen and transfer applications. These are very large volumes and we have issues processing them, being timely in our responses, and responsibly considering each candidate. I’m familiar with ConnectEdu. I’ve attended conferences where they were pitching their products. I haven’t learned much about the SuperApp yet, but as I said earlier, anything that helps admissions do a more thorough job is interesting to us, but all of the details need to be considered.”
Michael Toomey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.