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Innovators in the News

10/31/12 - Maine company helps high school seniors with college

(Reprint from NECN 10/25/12)-  Kaitlyn Gonzalez is on her way to health class, and, she hopes, college acceptance.

"My whole life revolves around it now," she says.

A senior at Morse High School in Bath, Maine, Kaitlyn has taken charge of her college search. One of the tools she has access to is a new program called Possibility U.

"This is where I'm likely to get into these schools and these are my reach schools," she says, using a web-based search engine that uses 78 different characteristics to find the schools that are the best match for her.

"What everyone wants to know is what is the right school for me, academically where do I fit, socially and increasingly - financially, where do I fit?" says Betsy Peters, CEO of Possibility U.

A former school board member with a background in e-commerce, Peters wanted to find a way to give all students easy access to volumes of data about the 4,000 colleges in the U.S., but in a personalized way.

At Morse High School, all juniors and seniors have Possibility U accounts - their grades, class rank and other profile information - gets put into the program and then bumped up against the recommendation engine.

"It's much like how Pandora works with music, this works with colleges," Peters says.

Peters says one of the key components of Possibility U is showing students not only their chances of getting into a particular school, but the likelihood of receiving aid.

Kaitlyn has put seven schools into the search engine - the heat map gives her an easy visual to see where she stands - which she says, has given her more confidence in her choices.

Morse High School used grant funds to pay for the pilot program, which can cost $10 - $15 per student. Money guidance counselor Leslie Trundy believes is well spent.

"This Possibility U is another way for kids to get that support and encouragement for what may be capable of doing hadn't thought of before," Trundy says.

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