The College Fair

App review by
Patricia Montic..., Common Sense Media
The College Fair App Poster Image
Browse slick feed to find college info with some flaws.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can explore what tons of colleges have to offer. By browsing careers and majors, kids can start to explore the kinds of things they might study and the types of careers they might pursue when they get older. There's an outsize focus on the salaries people could earn from attending each school, which can be misleading, but this could be a helpful conversations starter about the different kinds of careers that people can choose based on what they study in college. 

Ease of Play

It's easy to get started browsing colleges but would be better if you could more accurately search schools that match career interests.

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism

There's a major focus on what things cost and what you can make after graduating from each school. Plus, oddly, you can link directly to Amazon to buy clothing featuring each school's brand.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The College Fair is an app that lets kids explore information about colleges, majors, scholarships, and major cities with large concentrations of colleges and universities. There's a major focus on money: Each school's profile features its cost of attendance plus the median salary of graduates from that institution. Plus, there are some links to scholarship applications that students might pursue. The app is geared toward middle school and high school students, but there's also information for college students seeking graduate school opportunities. You can create your in-app profile by linking your Twitter or Facebook account, or you can choose to share limited information about yourself, like your GPA and standardized test scores. Oddly, you can link directly to Amazon from within the app to buy branded merchandise for each school. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared.

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What's it about?

THE COLLEGE FAIR lets users browse information about colleges, majors, and scholarships. The app looks like a social media news feed: The "posts" feature different schools, majors (such as biology), careers (such as finance), and cities with large concentrations of colleges and universities (such as Boston and Los Angeles). There's also some limited information available on national scholarships that students might apply for. To get started, you can link your Facebook account to create a profile, or you can enter some limited information about yourself, including your GPA and scores from tests such as the SAT and ACT. You can search for colleges and click a heart icon to add them to your favorites list. Some limited search features let you curate the news feed.

Each college's profile includes basic information about its location and size, and there's a major focus on the probability that you'll be admitted, which is shown as a percentage based on the GPA and test scores you enter when you create an account. Some schools' profiles include an interactive "viewbook" that offers a more in-depth look at a school's culture, academic offerings, and notable facts. Every profile includes a large focus on money -- specifically, how much it will cost to attend the school and what its students can expect to earn upon graduation. 

Is it any good?

There's a lot to like here: It's appealing and inspirational to scroll through a social media-style feed to browse colleges, majors, and cities, but there are some drawbacks. Overall, The College Fair is an approachable way to help introduce kids to different schools and majors they might pursue after high school. The focus on the cost of college is helpful to a point, since it's important to have frank conversations with your kids early on about the cost of college and how your family will pursue financial aid to cover that cost. However, the most problematic element is the ways it uses averages. If you put in a very high GPA and test scores, the app will say that you have a 62 percent chance of getting into Harvard or Stanford -- which simply isn't true for schools that routinely admit fewer than 10 percent of their highly qualified applicants. Similarly, saying that graduates of those schools make an average salary north of $100,000 a year is misleading and gives the impression that a teen should make a decision based primarily on possible salary. This app clearly isn't built to deliver those kinds of nuanced messages, and its broad strokes might be misleading to kids and families who are navigating college admissions for the first time. So, while it's a great way to start the conversation about a college search, more detailed support from a college counselor, teacher, or parent will help shape a well-rounded college search. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how your family will pay for college and how The College Fair might help. Make sure to have this conversation early in your search process: Talking about your family's finances can be uncomfortable, but you'll be better equipped to do so before you've received acceptance letters and financial aid packages that change the conversation.

  • Test scores aren't everything: Talk about all the things colleges consider in the admissions process. Talk about the activities and achievements your kid is proud of. What's the best way to tell that story when it comes to applying for college? What other opportunities might be good to pursue to help build those interests?

  • Discuss the potential impact of social media on the college-application process. Can questionable content posted on social media affect the chances of getting accepted?

  • Discuss ways that you and your kid can stay organized during the college-application process. How can you capture all the tasks that need to be completed? Come up with a system, either digitally or on paper, and stick to it.

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