To receive a college education is a privilege, that we all know; but to even hold the opportunity to apply to college is an immense privilege. Navigating the daunting processes of personal statements, recommendations, and application fees was made easier for many college students through school resources, but for many; the opportunity to apply to quality universities is lost amid logistical stress.
This is the reality that Lauren Pichiarella ‘22 is hoping to change. Studying Citizenship and Civic Engagement and Political Science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs with a minor in Public Communications in the Newhouse School of Public Communications, Pichiarella had always dreamed of using her career to have some social impact on the world around her. As part of her Citizenship and Civic Engagement program studies, she was expected to intern and work with a nonprofit or governmental organization, as well as design an “Action Plan;” designed to help the organization tackle significant social problems in the city of Syracuse.
Pichiarella interned in her junior year for the organization On Point for College, which helps high school students in Syracuse overcome barriers to higher education through assistance in the college application process. During her time working at this organization, Pichiarella was struck by the extreme difficulties many students encountered in their search for college. Having attended a college preparatory academy for her high school education, she had much support during her search for the perfect school; and it was those support and resources that helped her land a place at Syracuse University.
Many students in schools across the country, however; do not have access to guidance counselors and academic support to help with their college application process. Even for those that do have support, the college process is time-consuming, and involves numerous different application platforms, essays, and forms. “If students don’t have a guidance counselor, a lot of students get left behind,” said Pichiarella of the barriers in higher education access.
Driven by a desire to make sure every student has the ability to be admitted to the schools of their choice, Pichiarella searched for a way to make this process easier for students. Her action plan that she created this past year invented an app to do just that.
College Wise, Pichiarella’s app, hopes to create an easier and more accessible college application experience by providing one platform to access all applications, forms, deadlines, and resources through. To ease the stress of applying to numerous universities through various online application systems and additional forms such as FAFSA externally; students receive notifications from the app that remind students of deadlines, events, and university communications.
In addition to its system of simplifying the applications, Pichiarella also hopes to incorporate a social aspect into College Wise. As students apply through colleges at the same time in high school and often the same time as their friends, Pichiarella hopes that created social connections on this platform will motivate students and help them feel supported by their peers.
Currently, Pichiarella is developing the College Wise app with her team that has just hired a coder. The app will be used initially for the nonprofit OnPoint as first market test at the end of 2022, and then she hopes to expand it to become a nationwide tool for American high school students.
Creating an app is something Pichiarella had never even dreamt of doing. Before her CCE coursework, the thought of starting her business was completely foreign to her. Partnerships with the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University and professionals and resources within Newhouse have been invaluable to her throughout her creation. Needless, to say, this process has come with significant hurdles and resulting growth for her- and has only made her grateful for her team and more excited for her future.
After graduation, she dreams of working for a nonprofit, perhaps specifically in the field of equality to higher education access. She plans to continue working on College Wise to turn it into a tool every American student can use to organize their dreams of higher education into practical and realistic action.
Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow.