As many of you know, four years ago, the Pullias Center for Higher Education and Game Innovation Lab embarked on a collaboration intended to significantly improve low-income and first-generation students’ access to college information and support. Using game-based strategies, our educational researchers partnered with game designers to develop Collegeology Games, a suite of games designed to engage students in the college application process in fun and effective ways. A key component of the design process involves working with students from the games’ target population. High school senior, Jose Climaco, recently participated in a junior design camp where he helped conceptualize our fourth game—a game that builds financial aid literacy and equips students with the decision making skills to determine a sound college fit. Below Jose shares his experiences in playing the recently released college application game, Mission:Admission.
by Jose Climaco
My mother has talked with me about going to college since I was in elementary school. She would say, “Jose, to have an education and a good career will lead to a better life than I was able to provide to you and your brother and sister. I didn’t take advantage of my education.” During my first three years in high school, I struggled with that, because college seemed nearly impossible for me. Before the middle of tenth grade when I obtained legal status in the United Sates, I couldn’t see how college would help me if I couldn’t find employment after graduating.
I have to admit, it wasn’t until this summer vacation that I made up my mind to go to college. I had a job this summer knocking on people’s doors, advertising products. I felt like I could do better and wanted to get a job where I could showcase the skills I have learned in my school’s Technology Academy. I know that the job that I want as a computer technician requires a higher level of education than just a high school diploma.
I learned about Mission:Admission during my junior year in the Technology Academy at Foshay High School, where we were the pilot testers for this new Facebook game to help high school students prepare for the process of applying to colleges. At first I didn’t want to play because we had to answer a bunch of research questions. But then we just got the chance to play the game on our own, I really liked it. After that, I looked forward to playing the game.
At the very beginning of the game, you choose a character with specific goals and ambitions. Then, within the course of a week, you help the character apply for scholarships, gain skills, and enroll in a college that best fits your character’s needs and goals. What’s most interesting to me about the game is that it is based in real time, meaning that when you play the game, it is important to meet deadlines at specific times. For example, a deadline to apply to a four year state university can be at two in the morning on a Thursday; if you wake up at seven in the morning that Thursday and didn’t apply before that time, you missed the deadline.
Mission: Admission gives students the opportunity to enhance their skills in a virtual world where our mistakes do not come at an expensive price. We get to learn to identify ourselves with the schools that fit our academic, social, and economic needs. It’s great practice so we don’t make mistakes on our real applications.
It was challenging, but I submitted my application for California State University schools and have started my application for the University of California schools. While the game hasn’t helped me actually finish the applications, it has made me aware of deadlines and other important things I need to be thinking about for college. When you play the game, there are advantages of applying early—I’ve turned in half of my applications already, a month before they are due. I’ve also requested letters of recommendation well in advance.
I would encourage all students to play this game a few times to get a good feel for the college process. The idea behind Mission: Admission is to show students that college is possible as long as we prepare ourselves properly and at the right time. That is why this game is excellent for anyone looking to attend an institution of higher education.
*This post was originally published on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog “Impatient Optimists.”