What if the college admissions process could be transformed from its current form into a longer conversation between students and colleges, aimed at helping students find the best fit and colleges identify students with the potential to succeed in their programs? What if the process could identify students’ strengths at a level deeper than their GPAs and SATs? This is the goal of Scoir, a new software platform. I recently spoke with the project’s developer, Gerry McCrory, about Scoir.
McCrory envisions Scoir as a way to capitalize on social media tools to transform college admissions from a relatively brief, quantitatively based process (dependent on test scores and GPAs) into a qualitative engagement stretching throughout high school. Students will be able to use the platform to research and interact with colleges, while also developing a cloud-based portfolio of their own best work. Later in high school, when students narrow the list of their target schools, they can give those colleges access to the materials in their portfolio—allowing admissions officers a more nuanced perspective on student achievement than an SAT score.
Scoir has just launched the first phase of what McCrory intends will be a “full-blown holistic admissions network.” This first iteration, according to McCrory, provides students a college search experience that’s “social, visually immersive, and highlights unique aspects of a campus culture that can be used to discover colleges based on students’ personal interests.” By June, students will be able to begin building their “digital portfolios” to showcase interests, abilities and achievements that they can then choose to share with college admissions offices. He expects the full platform to be completed in time for the upcoming college admissions cycle.
He believes that this type of engagement—a social media platform that encourages students to go beyond the rankings and learn about what might really make a school a great fit for them, along with opportunities for colleges to see students’ achievement and potential across a range of disciplines—has the potential to improve the process for both sides. Currently, he told me, 17% of students transfer colleges after their freshman year, and 33% transfer before they graduate. Each of these transfers delays graduation by an average of 8 months, adding costs to tuition and to students’ debt burden. He believes that if the process could be made more transparent to begin with—if students had a clearer sense of where they were deciding to go, and colleges a clearer picture of the students they were admitting—everyone would benefit.
Scoir enables students to identify schools they may be interested in based on any number of variables—location, academic interests, hobbies, etc—and allows them to use information drawn from social media and the voices of students on campus, not just colleges’ marketing materials. The software platform would help students to learn about colleges they might otherwise overlook, and seek a great fit. Another goal is to promote transparency about the real cost of college.
The platform also employs principles of sharing and crowdsourcing to help students polish their work and demonstrate skills and creativity that aren’t currently showcased by standard college applications. For example, students will have the opportunity to engage in anonymous peer review of their creative work. And students will have the opportunity to participate in challenges/competitions (creative, academic, and technical) set for them by college representatives and industry experts, once again giving them the chance to demonstrate types of achievement and intelligence that are not recognized by metrics such as the SAT.
McCrory points out that the students most poorly served by the current admissions system are, on the one hand, those who come from poor families and under-resourced schools (where they may not get any college counseling) or who are the first in their family to apply to college; and on the other hand, those whose creative intelligence is not reflected by GPAs and test scores. By creating a qualitative engagement between applicants and admissions offices, he hopes Scoir will help both students and colleges make great matches.
The Scoir app is available through the itunes app store, and the web platform is available at scoir.com.