Acceptly: Kicking the (Beta) Tires

KICKING THE (BETA) TIRES: Incubators love to put entrepreneurs up on stage to pitch their company in about five minutes. So how about compressing reviews--and crowd-sourcing them, while we're at it? Here's our first quickie review of a new alpha/beta site. We'll tell you what we saw--but more important, take a look and tell us what you think. Polling results will be posted next week. The goal here is to be useful not just popular so, puleeze, no Chicago-style voting practices here. Vote once and you're done. And since we're new at this, go ahead and rate our scorecard, too! Nominees for future reviews are most welcome at feedback@edsurge.com.

A big thanks to Acceptly for bravely accepting serving as our first beta-test! You can take a peek inside the beta at the Acceptly site. Use this special EdSurge secret entrance (read: access code).

Acceptly is a free site that proposes to help high school students get organized for college applications and improve their odds of getting into their top-pick schools. That's a big order! It feels a bit like a weight-watchers' program, helping students keep careful track of their grades, activities and such. It's packed with reasonable, if somewhat humdrum advice. (Schools "place the most emphasis on your core academic course...So PE and Health class may not count!")

To stoke motivation, Acceptly proposes challenges ("Do Some Good") and awards points and badges generously once a student declares they have "done" the activity. Those points will be more meaningful when tied to real rewards (something in development). Even so, right now it's simply way too easy to rack up points. (Edsurge scored 70 points in a few minutes by just declaring we were "done" with some challenges. Cheating? Yah. Typical for the high school students we know? Well, yeah.) To improve SAT scores, Acceptly points students to Kaplan SAT Prep. If Kaplan is a sponsor, that should be made clear; otherwise, Acceptly might consider including links to other SAT prep programs, too.

The team seems tightly focused on using feedback to grow the service (students can vote up ideas for site improvements.) Organized teenagers may find the site a fun way to get uber-organized. We wonder whether less organized teens will groove on this. Most of the communications seem to be from Acceptly (and its experts) to users (rather than from users to users). That might be ok, as presumably most teens don't have much experience in applying to colleges. But much like any self-help site, it requires a good dose of internal motivation to make the program work for you.

The Acceptly team consists of four super experienced people based in sunny Hermosa Beach. They did a founders' round in April and are already getting tickles from investors.

Bottom line: Acceptly has a clean, student-friendly interface that makes it a cinch to use. It's aimed straight at the heart of Naviance, which claims to serve 5 million students and 100K educators. Naviance feels like it was designed for school counselors; Acceptly goes for the kids. That makes this a strong first entry. What you do you think? Tweet us back: we'd love to hear what you think on any of these elements: idea, user interface; mechanics; usefulness; overall grade. Use the hashtag #edsurgebeta

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