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ASU, USC making the college admissions process easier to navigate

November 06, 2012

Editor's Note: Arizona State football will take on University of Southern California at 1 p.m., Nov. 10, in Los Angeles. Learn more about ASU's collaborations with Pac-12 schools.

One of the key charges of President Barack Obama’s administration is ensuring that every U.S. citizen has the opportunity to obtain higher education. For many students, cost is a big issue when it comes time to decide where to apply. With that in mind, the Obama administration is taking steps to ensure that students “know before they owe.”

One of the ways they hope to accomplish this is through a new development called a “Shopping Sheet” – an individualized standard financial aid letter that will help students understand their costs before making the final decision on where to enroll. Arizona State University and ASU President Michael Crow participated in the consulting group that helped develop the Shopping Sheet, and the university is also among the first set of schools to adopt it.

With the average ratio of students to college counselors in public high schools at about 459 to 1, it is unlikely that all of their questions are being answered. As a result, it becomes imperative for universities to find ways of being more transparent about college costs and the whole application process in general.

The Shopping Sheet makes it easy for students to compare financial aid packages offered by different institutions and also provides a more clear explanation of the costs and responsibilities of student loans, outlining their total estimated annual costs, institutional rates of completion and default, and information about a student’s potential monthly loan payments after graduation. 

Along the same vein, researchers at the University of Southern California have launched a free Facebook game, Mission: Admission, aimed at helping students better understand and navigate the college application process. The game allows students to get a virtual experience of what it’s like to apply for college via a personalized avatar that goes through all the different steps along the way, like meeting with college advisers, choosing which schools to apply to, applying for scholarships and financial aid, and requesting recommendation letters.

The game was created under the umbrella of USC’s Collegeology Games project, which plans to create more games like Mission: Admission that are all designed to help students prepare for college and apply for financial aid.

Ultimately, whether it’s a Shopping Sheet or a Facebook game, the purpose of these tools is to provide students and their families with useful information that can help them make a more informed decision about where to attend college and how to make it more financially viable.