Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Can Facebook Apps Help More Students Get Into College?

April 09, 2013

Today, the Gates Foundation and Facebook teamed up once again to host HackEd 2.0. 

This education-centered hackathon brought together talented developers to create unique college-going apps for low-income and first generation students. I was thrilled to be serving as a judge at the event.

The need for college-going tools has always been around. These tools have become increasingly more important in the era of College and Career Readiness. With the rise of college in the national dialogue, students are beginning to see college as their academic endpoint instead of high school graduation. 

Yet students who are low-income or first-generation rarely have the know-how to succeed in college admissions. They often lack the tools to plan for their future. There’s also a lack of infrastructure in schools or online to help students advance their college aspirations.

But developers are now using accessible platforms like Facebook to make college-going easier to navigate and more transparent. Students can now tap into the power of social media as a tool for planning and transitioning to college.

Being the son of Haitian immigrants, and growing up in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Florida, made me think that I’d never attend a university. And being part of a family of 13 brought on numerous responsibilities at a very young age and required me to work. 

For me, the prospect of attending college seemed out of reach. I was highly motivated and enjoyed learning. I also had aspirations to one day go to college. What I didn’t have was a plan or access to tools for navigating the pre-college process. No one in my family had ever gone to college, so there wasn’t much conversation about educational opportunities beyond high school.

About halfway through high school, I figured I’d pass on college although I had the grades and was very interested. But then I heard about College Summit, a program that prepares high school students in lower-income communities for college and guides them through the application process. 

Thanks in large part to that experience and the phenomenal people working behind the scenes to make education relevant, I made it to college, and now graduate school. College Summit provided me with comprehensive exposure to college life and admissions and gave me access to a set of robust online tools for college planning. That experience tipped the scale for me and put me back on the path to college.

But there are many other students out there trying to perform in high school courses that work 20 hours a week and need help navigating the college-going process. 

How could an app help? I’m excited that the Gates Foundation in collaboration with Facebook has taken up this great charge. As a result, developers are finding creative solutions to help students meet this challenge.

 
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