Imagine you’re a college counselor at a US high school. Each of your students needs help choosing which schools to look at, figuring out financial aid packages, and keeping track of all the deadlines—not to mention advice about which classes and grades a dream school requires. If you’re the average US college counselor, you’re providing these services to a mind-boggling 473 students per year.
Campus Steps hopes to lend a hand. On April 21, the company announced a seed round of $2 million from its partner company Campus Explorer and a commitment of $1 million from OCA Ventures, Rincon Venture Partners and Vicente Capital towards its open Series A round. Founded in 2014, Campus Steps offers online profiles to help students through the college application process at 6,300 high schools (20% of US high schools, according to Campus Steps). Since January, 550 counselors and 20,000 students have used the site.
The students can fill out questionnaires, which ask questions about courses taken, future career aspirations, and what they’re looking for in a college (including a feature that founder and CEO Mark Eastwood describes as “very Tinder-like,” which asks students to swipe left or right on photos of a campus). Campus Steps then compiles the information into a student profile, so that a high school college counselor can have the information at hand when meeting with a student.
Eastwood sees the service as a LinkedIn for high school students. “We provide a repository for students to tell their stories in terms of academics and interests, like a high school resume,” he explains to EdSurge.
To Eastwood, Campus Steps is a time-saver in the college advising process, as students share information about their background and goals on Campus Steps before meeting with overextended college counselors. “They have very little individualized time for students, and with Campus Steps, they can quickly get an idea of who a student is,” he explains. “The intake information is already completed, so time in the counselor’s office is really about richer guidance.”
Through a school’s Campus Steps page, counselors can also reach out to individual students, or to a group. “You can message all juniors an attachment, or a financial aid form,” says Eastwood. Students can then login to an online message center, or elect to receive notifications over email or text message.
Campus Steps also provides a premium offering to students looking for more personalized guidance. For $30 per month, a student has unlimited online access to counselors on the Campus Steps site, who provide advice on subjects like financial aid forms or which completed courses a certain school looks for. Eastwood sees this service as an alternative to private college counselors, who charge thousands of dollars for guidance throughout the application process.
The company is also piloting a “Course Planner” with eighth grade students in California. The tool allows middle school students to plan their high school coursework based on entrance requirements at different University of California campuses. “College coaches often are focused only on students in high school, and that’s often way too late in the process,” says Eastwood. “You have to start to plan your academics in middle school.” Students can also “reverse the feature” if interested in a particular school, Eastwood explains: If interested in attending UC Berkeley, an eighth grader could see which high school classes the university recommends for admittance.
“Our ultimate goal is to curate a list, for each student, of five to 10 schools that would be a good fit,” Eastwood says. With 90% of US students receiving less than 10 minutes of college counseling each year, Eastwood advises that all students start planning for the college application process far ahead of time.
How early? Eastwood reports that his 10-year-old daughter watches Campus Steps’ video profiles of colleges “for fun.”