Parenting

Parenting: New college search website

Friday, April 27, 2012
David Murphy reports: BigFuture.org replaces collegeboard.com.

David Murphy reports: BigFuture.org replaces collegeboard.com. (David Murphy reports: BigFuture.org replaces collegeboard.com.)

The College Board, the not-for-profit organization that helps students search for the right college, take the SATs and apply for admission, has a brand new website, BigFuture.org. The new site replaces the old collegeboard.com and is more stream-lined and easier to navigate.

It aims to make the college search process easier to understand and less intimidating, while continuing to provide all the vital information that lived on the old site.

For example, the BigFuture.org home page includes a pink dot with a label reading, "Not sure where to start?" Clicking here puts the beginner on the road to the basics, like picking a major and deciding on the type of campus they might like best. New interactive tools have been added like self-questionnaires and videos of students and admissions experts lending advice.

Intelligent design

BigFuture.org also includes quick links on selecting a school and paying for it, similar to before, but presented in a more up-to-date format. The menus are more orderly and make more sense. For example, moving your cursor over "Find Colleges" immediately produces a sub-menu with conversational, easily discernible choices that jump you ahead to the topic you desire, from advice on "finding your college fit" and "college search" to "compare colleges".

Often, there are steer-backs toward basic tutorials in case you find yourself in over your head. For example, clicking on "college search" brings you to a page with various criteria for searching, but also a "Not sure where to start?" link taking you back to an interactive guide that helps get your feet wet.

BigFuture.org still allows member sign-ups so that users can keep track of their searches and SAT scores.

Just the way you like it

The College Board teamed with another non-profit, the Education Conservancy, in designing the new site and designers solicited lots of input from students and educators to produce the current look. The ultimate hope is that by making the site more user-friendly, more kids will stick with the process and get into college.

A special concern involves low-income students whose expectations of success may be lower because of the cost involved. Very early in the BigFuture.org financial aid section, pop-ups begin appearing with encouraging facts like: the average financial aid per student is about $12,000 right now. By the way, I can guarantee you that plenty of schools will offer a lot more than that to a promising kid with little means.

Upping enrollment

BigFuture.org is part of a larger College Board effort that aims to put diplomas into the hands of 55% of Americans by 2025. It's a lofty goal, given that more and more people are questioning whether taking on college debt in a poor economy is such a bright idea. Add to that the complicated nature of the search and application process and it's easy to see why some people are bowing out of the effort before it really gets started.

Recent studies still suggest that someone with a college degree tends to make a lot more money over their lifetimes than a non-degree holder. Furthermore, there are many fascinating and stimulating occupations that you simply can't realize without attending college.

BigFuture.org can't guarantee a student's success. However it does represent an effort to make the process of getting that success started more intuitive and supportive, with a larger eye on helping students realize their full potential.

---David Murphy

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