Site Helps Teens Map Out College Application Process

Susanna Cerasuolo has worked with teens for 20 years – as an English and journalism teacher and most recently, as a guidance counselor. She also volunteers for the Boys and Girls Club. But when club leaders began asking her for a guide they could give kids that would walk them through college admissions, Cerasuolo wondered how she would deliver so much information to so many people.

Susanna Cerasuolo created CollegeMapper to simplify the process of applying for college.

Cerasuolo knew she would have no trouble creating something, but wouldn’t physically be able to go to each individual club and help every child. She had to figure out a way to get these kids the information, and she wanted it to be free.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to college. As a first generation student, I understand the problems that first gen students deal with in the college application process. It can be overwhelming. It’s a foreign world. I wanted to de-mystify the process.”

That’s when Cerasuolo’s solution began to take shape. Soon after, she created CollegeMapper, a step-by-step web-based software that guides teens through every aspect of preparing for, selecting, and applying to college.

Cerasuolo knew the site had to be formatted in a way effective enough so the young users could navigate it with ease.

“The software is dynamic so it reacts to the information kids enter just as I would react to them if they were in front of me,” Cerasuolo said. “It’s also as interactive as possible because teenagers are not passive users of technology.”

The website is aimed toward students in grades 8-12 who don’t have access to personal, thorough guidance, Cerasuolo explained. It’s formatted so users are walked through tasks such as building their resumes, creating to-do lists structured by timelines, and creating lists of potential college choices.

“Organization is absolutely critical because the entire process can be so overwhelming and confusing,” she said. “Independent research is also very important. Kids should research very carefully the schools they would like to attend, as opposed to just being handed a list by a parent or counselor.”

Helpful resources on the site include a blog, a list of glossary definitions, a forum powered by guidance counselors, videos, and a FAQ page.

“There’s so much information available now that kids can’t even sift through it all,” she said. “They’re navigating through 10 to 15 different websites without really knowing what they’re doing or what they’re supposed to be looking for.”

Cerasuolo has a team that helps her run the website, and even though CollegeMapper launched in June 2012, she said users have given her a lot of good reviews and positive feedback. In the future, she hopes to use the site to attract younger students as well.

“I’d like for it to be useful for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders to create a college-going culture even sooner.”

Follow Valerie Jones on Twitter @ValerieJonesCMN