Today the College Board launched a new resource, BigFuture, meant to help students make better decisions about college. Where the government’s College Navigator provides an overwhelming dashboard of mind-numbing statistics on institutions with (seemingly) little attention paid to user-friendliness, BigFuture draws you in with savvy graphics and a heavy-hitting quote:
Your big future begins with you — it’s your journey. Asking yourself questions can help you figure out who you are and where you want to go.
Making the decision on what college to attend is complex and overwhelming. With over 4,000 degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States, students rely on imperfect, irrational methods to make their selection. Some base their decision on what institution is the closest, and others on what a cousin’s girlfriend said about her time at State U. Many will crack open this year’s US News and World Report and apply to the top ten without any regard for how the rankings were even calculated. The consequences of poor selection are enormous: stop outs, drop outs, high debt loads, and increased student “swirl” among multiple institutions.
So how do we get students to make better decisions? A lot of data already exists, but oftentimes little thought is put into how this data is packaged and presented to students. It’s not just about getting the data out there—students need to actively consume the data. And for them to consume the data, it needs to meet them where they are.
The site asks students six questions about their preferences for college type, location, campus setting, cost, majors, and learning environment. A list of institutions is then aggregated, and students have an opportunity to filter even further based on institutional characteristics. Students can make lists where they can cross compare colleges of their choice. Even more importantly, they can learn about the various application and financial aid deadlines for each college. Sprinkled throughout the website are graphical representations of important statistics, videos from college students talking about aspects of college life, and videos from administrators explaining difficult-to-understand but important concepts like net versus “list” price.
The best part? This resource is free. I was able to explore it at great depth without registering. To personalize the site further, students will need to register (again free) with the College Board, something that is inevitable for high school students taking an AP or SAT exam.
The only question that remains is whether BigFuture’s roll out will have a big impact on those, like first generation, low-income students, who need it most. This remains to be seen, but for now BigFuture looks bright.