Mission: Admission For Underserved High School Students

USC launches Facebook game to teach students about applying to college

By LatinoLA Contributor, USC Media Relations
Published on LatinoLA: October 31, 2012

Mission: Admission For Underserved High School Students

With college application season underway for millions of U.S. high school students, USC researchers launched a free Facebook game to help underserved students, often the first in their families to aspire to college, navigate the complicated process of applying for college and financial aid.

Called Mission: Admission, the game was created under the umbrella of the Collegeology Games project, a collaboration of the USC Rossier School of Education's Pullias Center for Higher Education and the USC School of Cinematic Arts' Game Innovation Lab.

The game allows students to virtually experience the demands of the college application process and empowers them with the skills and knowledge they need to apply, get into and pay for college.

Students guide their avatars through the process of meeting with college advisors, choosing the types of schools to apply to (including four-year, community and technical colleges), scheduling community service and sports activities, applying for scholarships and financial aid and requesting recommendation letters.

"We developed Mission: Admission because, for many students ÔÇô especially first-generation and low-income students ÔÇô applying to college can be a daunting and overwhelming process," said Zoe Corwin, assistant research professor at the USC Rossier School and director of research for Collegeology Games. "We wanted to figure out a way to make both the college application and financial aid process more accessible, inspiring and fun."

Nationally, school budget cuts have meant students are often left to navigate the college application process alone: The average counselor-to-student ratio in public high schools stands at 459 students per counselor (California has an average ratio of more than 800 students per counselor).

And a recent survey of high schoolers' social media habits showed nearly three-quarters of students log in to Facebook at least once a day. That makes the social networking site a prime location for Mission: Admission, said Tracy Fullerton, Electronic Arts Endowed Chair and Director of the USC Game Innovation Lab.

"With the high ratio of students to college counselors in many schools, game-based learning allows more young people to learn about college earlier than ever before," Fullerton said. "We are encouraging freshman to play the game because it's never too early to start thinking about college."

Teacher Leslie Aaronson, who participated in a pilot of the game with her 12th grade class at Foshay Tech Academy in Los Angeles, said many of her students, excited about the prospect of their avatar being accepted to college, continue to play Mission: Admission at home or during free time at school.

"Students in my class tell me that the game has been helpful in getting them to stick to deadlines and better understand the college admissions process," Aaronson said. "They are much more proactive about college now, and in fact, most of my students have already solicited two letters of recommendation and scheduled their SATs in real life."

Last year, researchers debuted the first game in the Collegeology Games series: a card game called Application Crunch. USC gave away 1,000 free copies of the game to college counselors in high-need schools across the country before making it available through online purveyors including Amazon.com in January.

Collegeology Games plans to launch additional games on multiple media platforms designed to help students prepare for college and apply for financial aid. Two new games are in the works for spring 2013: FutureBound, a game targeting middle school students, and a financial aid game.

Funders of the Collegeology Games Project include the USC Office of the Provost, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, TG, the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To play Mission: Admission on Facebook, visit

For more information on Collegeology Games visit http://collegeology.usc.edu/games/ or on Twitter @CollegeologyUSC.

About Collegeology Games

Collegeology Games works to develop fun, inspiring, and educational games that will increase the number of low-income youth preparing for, applying to, and finding success in college. These games are designed to help educate students on how to select schools, complete admissions applications, and find and complete financial aid forms. Based out of the University of Southern California, the Collegeology suite of games are research-based, highly innovative tools that were designed through a partnership at USC of the Game Innovation Lab and the Pullias Center for Higher Education that will help to ensure postsecondary educational opportunities for high school students in the United States.

About the USC Rossier School of Education
The USC Rossier School of Education (ross-EAR) is one of the world's premier centers for the study of urban education. In addition to the school's transformational research and partnerships, USC Rossier also prepares teachers and educational leaders who are committed to improving urban education locally, nationally and globally.

About USC School of Cinematic Arts
Founded in collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1929 over 80 years ago, the USC School of Cinematic Arts has fueled and mirrored the growth of entertainment as an industry and an art form. The school offers comprehensive programs in directing, producing, writing, critical studies, animation and digital arts, production, and interactive media, all backed by a broad liberal arts education and taught by leading practitioners in each field. USC was voted the #1 game design school in North America for its graduate and undergraduate degree programs by the Princeton Review and GamePro Magazine for three consecutive years.

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