About the Post

Kate Glazko

Author Information

Kate Glazko is a senior studying Computer Science and Business Administration at the University of Southern California. She is an Honors in Multimedia Scholarship student, and has worked with data analysis, visualization, and programming in her classes, previous research, and internships at DreamWorks and Mozilla.

The Need for Assistance and Information

FB-200x200I am currently a research assistant on a game that helps high school students understand the process of applying to college. The game, Mission: Admission, which is meant to serve first-generation college attendees and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, offers a learning experience in what high school students should actually do when applying for colleges.

Coming from a family where no one had gone through the undergraduate admissions process in the United States before, I understood the need for assistance and information. At many public schools, the lack of school counselors and extra time in the classroom results in the loss of important information being shared with students such as financial aid opportunities, deadlines for applications and exams, letters of recommendation, and more. Students who do not have parents or siblings who went through the college process before may find it daunting to apply to college: doing well in school is only a small part of actually being admitted and finding tuition to pay for the college of their choice.

Mission: Admission provides an interesting solution by placing the player in a simulation of a potentially college-bound high school student. Players can then decide what kind of program they plan to apply to—ranging from a large, public university to an online college—and complete the objectives such as writing a college essay, fulfilling a certain academic level, and doing the extra-curricular activities that are necessary to be admitted. Along with that, they need to be able to afford the tuition. The player uses a calendar to help them track deadlines for financial aid, scholarships, and admissions deadlines. At the end of the week, the student will learn whether or not they were able to attend the college of their choice and whether or not they could afford it.

I played the game myself, and was pleased by the structure and organization it offered. It felt very clear to see the deadlines and to-dos laid out on the calendar, including identifying and choosing among all of the options to apply for colleges, scholarships, and financial aid. This helped take the guess work out of the process. After playing the game, I felt like I had learned a lot about getting into college despite already being in college.

Mission: Admission is a very exciting game, in my opinion, because it combines fun and highly interactive gameplay with important lessons that need to be taught. With the increasing amount of games played in our society, game-makers have an option to produce games and content that don’t simply entertain, but can truly make a difference in society through educating. It will be exciting to see whether such a trend can continue into other aspects of life where people from disadvantaged communities struggle: making it through college, graduation, then success after graduation.

My research for Mission: Admission will involve analyzing the raw data that is being sent to the server as the game is being played. Information such as when the game is being played, how successful the player was after a certain amount of time or a sequence of actions, and discovering in-depth information regarding gameplay choices can provide more insights on how the player interacts with the game.  I can also research the effectiveness of such interactions. It is a very interesting task to analyze such a large amount of data and to draw meaningful conclusions from it. Since there is such a large amount of data, I am working on a more effective method to analyze it: the options currently being tested are Python with the Numpy and Scipy libraries or R.

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