Spotlight on Innovation: Game-Based Strategies for Improving Access for First-Generation Students at USC

Students using their phone
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The US Department of Education has awarded multi-million dollar "First in the World" grants to 24 colleges and universities that are innovating to solve critical challenges with access, recruitment, retention, and student success. At AI, we have interviewed each of the recipients to learn more about the projects these institutions are pursuing, how their approaches are unique, and what other colleges and universities can learn from these new efforts.

by Lisa Cook & Daniel Fusch, Academic Impressions

For low-income and first-generation students, navigating the college and financial aid application process can be challenging. Without a mentor or experienced family member to guide students through the process, steps like requesting letters of recommendation and applying for scholarships can seem overwhelming. To exacerbate this problem, many first-generation students attend high schools without counselors or with overburdened college counselors.

Researchers at the University of Southern California set out to ease the process through online games that students can play to simulate the experience of applying to college.

USC's first such prototype, Mission: Admission, was launched in 2011 through a partnership between the Pullias Center for Higher Education and the USC Game Innovation Lab. Their work has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, which recently awarded them a $3.2 million First in the World grant to expand the game to a wider audience.

We reached out to Zoë Corwin, associate research professor for the Pullias Center for Higher Education, to learn more.

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