Sending a child to college is one of the largest financial “investments” a family will make. For most, the amount of money involved in paying for college is second only to the cost incurred by purchasing a home. And yet, before a student’s acceptance into a higher education institution, the exact amount of a school’s tuition has been conjecture for those involved in the application process.
This “blind” cost issue has been somewhat fixed, as a recent New York Times article explains, by recent regulations that force schools to offer “cost calculators.” This change has eased one of the major concerns facing college applicants and their parents.
However, a whole myriad of other problems and issues remain for nervous college applicants and their families, not least of which is the entire process itself. With such huge financial stakes involved, as well as the growing competitiveness of college acceptance, the college applicant industry has become a million dollar sector. Families are spending vast amounts of money on testing preparation, application services, and essay writing courses.
So obviously, the whole application industry is ripe for disruption. Enter local company ApplyKit, which has created a cloud-based tool to help make the entire process easier for students and less tension-filled for parents. On ApplyKit’s website, which was launched on Tuesday, hopeful applicants can complete almost every part of the application process, track their progress, and submit their applications.
Bobby Touron, ApplyKit’s founder, came up with the idea for the online application platform while applying to business school during the time he was serving as Wasabi Ventures’ Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Originally from Westwood, Touron journeyed to Montreal, where he attended McGill University, as well as to New York to work at an e-commerce startup. He eventually returned to Boston after Wasabi Ventures offered him an opportunity to engage with entrepreneurs and startups as an associate and then as a venture partner. While working at the firm, he proposed that the company create the EIR position. They did, and Touron became Wasabi’s first Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Motivated to create a great product at the venture firm and frustrated by the grad school application process, Touron thought up ApplyKit early in the fall of 2012. He believed that an accessible and useful product that could simplify the “old school and archaic” methods of college application would be beneficial to students, parents, school guidance counselors, and college admission officers.
“The college application process is still Byzantine,” Touron said. “It’s so old, so inefficient, and there is so much information online which no one knows what to do with.”
For one, the “fragmented experience,” as Touron puts it, of the whole process is just “crazy.” Some students apply to an average of seven schools, and the Department of Education recommends at least five. With around twenty different components to each application, including essays, recommendations, etc., the amount of content that needs to be organized is immense.
Additionally, while the online application process has not been implemented by all colleges, Touron believes it will be in the near future. The online applications that do currently exist pose a challenge because they are difficult to navigate. As Touron explained, “I’m pretty tech savvy, and, despite this, I was having trouble figuring things out on each school’s system.” “For something so important,” he added, “You would think that the process would be a little more sophisticated.”
Finally, all parties involved in the college application process are stretched thin. Students are being overwhelmed by huge amounts of paperwork while trying to complete their final year of high school. Guidance counselors can’t service all the applicants they would like to. The numbers that Touron gave me to support this are staggering: the average ratio of student to guidance counselor is 450-1, a number that is almost doubled at in urban school districts. Lastly, parents are often stressed and left in the cold during much of the application process.
ApplyKit solves all of these problems with its easy to use platform that organizes all the components needed to apply to college.
For example, a student applying to say, Harvard, can search ApplyKit’s database for the school’s application and add it to a cloud-based folder of applications. The student then has online access to the applications and can add collaborators such as parents, guidance counselors, and recommenders to the application. All the work is done through ApplyKit’s site: the application is filled out, recommendations and essays are added and saved, and students get all of the components of an application organized by the platform. Once completed, the application can be sent to the school through ApplyKit.
One of the best features of ApplyKit is the notification function that reminds students of vital application deadlines and unfinished parts of the process. When parents are added as collaborators, they too can access this information to ensure that their children are fulfilling the necessary components of the application.
ApplyKit is truly disruptive, and, with free as well as premium versions, looks to help all of those involved in the college application process while possibly becoming a windfall for Wasabi and its first Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Dennis Keohane is a teacher, journalist and contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.