Applying to college is one of the most important things in a person’s life, and until now there was no way to practice it. On Monday the University of Southern California officially launched “Mission: Admission,” a Facebook application that turns the college admissions process into a video game.
“Mission: Admission’s” simple, cartoony interface hides a serious attempt to help underserved students understand the process of applying to college. The game, which began development in 2009 as a partnership between the university’s Rossier School of Education and School of Cinematic Arts, requires players to master the art of balancing their avatar’s academic studies, extracurricular activities, request letters of recommendation, as well as meet school and financial aid application deadlines.
Unlike the real college admissions process, the game allows players to fail with no long-term consequences. Players who push their characters too hard only run the risk that their avatar runs out of energy, not that it’s hospitalized for exhaustion. Players who miss deadlines, or fall short of the requirements for their preferred school, get to restart the game without having to wait months for the spring semester application deadline.
In a YouTube video posted with the announcement, USC education researcher Zoe Corwin, who also served on the game’s design team, explained that providing a place for students to fail without consequences was one of the reasons the university created the game.
According to Corwin, her research has shown that as students repeatedly play the game “their college going efficacy increases for every time they play.” The impact on student efficacy stems from the fact that, unlike most learning games, “Mission: Admission” is designed to help students learn strategies instead of content, and one of the strategies the game primarily focuses on is time management.
By teaching students how to better manage their time, the design team hoped that the game could serve as a virtual academic advisor for people applying to college without the benefit of a guidance counselor, reported KQED.
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