EduBound: Improving the College Application and Transition Process for First-Gen Students

Contributors: Hank Tadeusiak (Observer), Elana Hummel (Facilitator), Ethan Sylvia (Observer)

Understanding the Problem

Many first generation college students lack access to college related resources and the resources they do have often vary in quality depending on the school. Our research, targeting first-generation students currently enrolled in college, pointed to two major themes that aided in the success or failure of first generation students applying and transitioning into college:

Understanding the College Application Process Timeline

Our research showed that successful first generation students often attributed their achievements to a figure who mentored them through the timeline of significant events when applying to college. In addition to this, these mentors provided key resources and their personal experiences at each step.

Underprepared for Collegiate Academics

Many first-generation students felt that their high school classes did not prepare them for college-level courses, even if they were described as “advanced” or for college credits. However, students that enrolled in community college classes or programs like Running Start found their experience prepared them much better for college, as the classes were structured similarly to university.

Our Proposed Solution

EduBound is a web application that adds an additional layer of support for first generation students. We sought a solution that would be free to use and easy to access from any device a student may have.

To address the needs outlined in our research results, EduBound provides a centralized source of information to supplement the mentorship of an actual advisor. To accomplish this, the site includes a timeline-like feature that walks a first generation student through significant events in the college application process. For each event, the website provides key resources as well as estimated “due dates” ensuring first-generation students stay on track. EduBound also enables students to find college readiness courses that would help develop better study habits and introduce the rigor of college-level coursework.

Having one centralized, interactive resource for first-generation students could greatly improve their success and help them feel more confident as they transition from high school to college.

Initial Prototype

Testing Setup

We decided to pursue a web application for our design, and tested our idea through a paper prototype of our website, which can be seen below. To test our prototype, we conducted three user tests in person, gaining valuable feedback on the usability of our design.

Results & Feedback

We got a large amount of feedback from our three user tests. One of the most salient changes we made was the decision to remove the menu tab and move the menu options to the top of the page as a navigation bar. Additionally, we decided to replace the “Quick Links” section on the homepage with a “Completed Tasks” section. Finally, the last major change we added was a confirmation message that appeared after the user scheduled an appointment with a mentor. In addition to these larger changes, we also added some smaller changes to make our design more usable. The final revised version of our paper prototype can be seen in the image below.

These results helped us modify our design to ensure users would be able to successfully navigate through our system and be able to easily find resources they need. With the changes we made after our usability tests, we hope our design will be able to provide impactful information and resources to our target user group in an accessible format.

Digital Prototype

Our digital prototype is based on many of the design components we implemented in our paper prototype, with some small modifications. We designed our prototype to allow the user to perform the same two tasks we tested in our usability testing with our paper prototype: Find what’s next in the college application process and find college preparation resources. Here is a link to our digital mockup on Figma:

Task 1: Find What’s Next In the College Application Process

This task provides a centralized source of information to supplement the mentorship of an actual advisor. The mockup has a timeline feature that illustrates significant events in the college application process to first generation students. Below the timeline is a textual representation of what a student needs to accomplish next as well was what tasks they have completed.

Subtask: Find a mentor

The “Connect with a mentor” page allows a user to find mentors, such as advisors, tutors, and consolers. This page is a subtask of “find what’s next in the college application process” and is meant to be used if a student feels the need for more specialized help than the timeline feature is able to give. From the page, users can schedule meetings and message various mentors.

Here is an example of a user viewing available times to meet with Jane Doe, a high school counselor.

A user also has the option to message these mentors for questions about scheduling or the college application process.

Task 2: Find College Prep Resources

The “College Preparation Resources” page displays a list of resources related to preparing for college-level academics, as well as studying subjects that may not be available at a student’s high school. This page is directly related to the “Find College Preparation Resources” task.

In Conclusion…

EduBound hopes to aid the many first generation college students that do not have access to college planning resources or mentor figures to guide them through the application process. Our ultimate goal is to better prepare first generation students for collegiate academics and make them feel more comfortable with the overall application process. Through an iterative design process we have been able to develop a single prototype that will be user-friendly and functional for our target user-group.

University of Washington Computer Science, Intro to Human Computer Interaction