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Columbia Graduate Students Find the Best Fit for High School Students
By Shannen Hill, Contributing Writer
Published May 10, 2018

Asha Owens (left) and Rebecca Kwee (right) work together to give incoming college students a digital version of their best campus fits.

Two graduate students at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University are set to launch an app this Summer that will give students a closer look into colleges and universities if they aren’t able to visit the campus.

Rebecca Kwee and Asha Owens met through a program at their college, called EdTech Innovation, which funds projects and research involving education and technology. Kwee studies higher education and Owens studies school technology and media, so they joined forces to create an app that would help students who are applying to college.

“Last semester we were inspired by a podcast that talked about the Summer Melt, which is where a lot of low-income, minority and first-generation students get into college, but they don’t attend in the fall,” said Owens. “We decided to look into it and realized that there really is an information gap between lower-income students and their wealthier peers.”

Best Fit will bridge that gap by setting up a social media platform where students and colleges have profiles. The students’ profiles will show their interests, including what they want to study, what city they would like to live in, their extracurricular interests and more. The information will also be associated with the student’s grade-level. Once logged in, they will have a newsfeed that shows the profiles of different colleges that would be a good fit for them.

“Our goal is to help students discover schools outside of their existing network. A lot of existing websites require students to put in colleges that they already know. Instead of narrowing their options, we want them to find out about schools that they haven’t heard about,” said Kwee.

The college profiles will include information from the school’s website such as how to apply, tuition costs and descriptions of courses for their major. What makes Best Fit more innovative, however, is the social media component on the college profiles. Students will be able to see what people are posting about the college life at different universities. They will also get to see exclusive, interactive videos from current students who talk about their experience at the college as well as different tips for incoming freshmen.

Through EdTech Innovation, Kwee and Owens were able to practice coding, design and research. Their experience has moved rather quickly as everything has happened in less than a year. Kwee is from Singapore, Owens is from Georgia and they are in different graduate programs so the chances of them linking up weren’t as likely. They met in the Fall of 2017 and have since won the EdTech Innovation Award and traveled all over the country pitching their app at different competitions.

“We’re moving really quickly. We’ve been competing and applying to different grants and awards. In a way it has become a full-time job but we’re fortunate to have one-another,” said Owens. “Becca and I relate because we both chose our colleges without ever seeing them and we were fortunate, but there are a lot of people in our shoes who make decisions like that and they don’t succeed and it’s detrimental to their future success. We want to bring as much information to students about colleges as we can.”

Kwee and Owens are set to graduate with their master’s degrees in May and plan to go full force into their app over the summer. While they are moving quickly and gaining notoriety, Best Fit is still in the early stages. The graduate students are seeking funding for product development, testing and to reach a larger number of students. For more information on the Best Fit app, visit www.best-fit-app.com.

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