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Fall 2014

College, With a Little Help From Your Friends

When high school students need advice about college, they often turn to their guidance counselor, parents, or older siblings. But what if their list of potential resources expanded to include everyone in their Facebook network? That is what CollegeConnect, cocreated by Christine Greenhow, Ed.D.’06, is offering to every student with a Facebook account who is thinking about college. The app helps them learn about college and get advice from people they already know but might not think to ask, as well as friends of friends.College Connect app on cell phone

The idea behind the app is to make the challenge of locating college-related resources in one’s network easier and more personal. The app highlights the individuals within a student’s Facebook network with some sort of college knowledge — they either attended a college, worked at a college, or have some college-related information indicated in their Facebook profile. Students can then send a message that is preset to contain questions derived from research and academic literature, such as “what is college like” or “who can help me pick my major,” with the option of adding their own questions. 

“Students, especially those from low-income families, may have no one in their immediate friends or family network who has gone to or graduated from college, or they may not have access to information about the colleges that are the right match for their career goals, talents, and interests,” says Greenhow, an associate professor at Michigan State University. “Low-income students frequently experience an under-matching problem in college admission and enrollment. For instance, they may be steered to community colleges in their local area when a four-year college out of state is a better fit.”