A new online game for high school students is designed around one of the most important, most complicated and most frustrating jobs that teenagers face: applying to college.
The game is called “Mission: Admission” and anyone with a Facebook account can play. It’s been three years in the making through a partnership with USC’s Game Innovation Lab.
“We really want to teach them strategies and give them a safe place to fail,” said USC education researcher Zoe Corwin.
Failing in the game is no big deal. Failing to get into the right college because deadline was missed or an application was incomplete is a really big deal.
In "Mission: Admission," a cartoon-like avatar juggles a busy calendar that requires the student to get letters of recommendation and fill out applications, all while studying on an imaginary high school campus. The player can run out of energy, miss deadlines, or fall short of the require qualifications for college admissions.
Just like in real life, Corwin said.
“Mission: Admission” helps students understand and engage in the college application process, said Corwin. And that’s critical as California’s college counselor-to-student ratio hovers at 800 to one.
The game is designed with a certain kind of student in mind: the one who doesn’t hear about what it takes to go to college in the classroom or at home.
Corwin recruited Los Angeles high school students last year to test out the game. She said students learned about “paying attention to deadlines, managing time well, requesting letters of recommendation in advance, and balancing extra-curriculars and academics.”
Jose Climaco, a senior at Foshay Learning Center in Los Angeles, was one of Corwin's recruits. He said that in the seven times he’s played the game, he’s learned about strategy and planning.
“Plan ahead before you submit your college application. When asking for a letter of recommendation, you should ask in time. When it comes down to applying and you want to ask a day before the deadline, it’ll be too late,” Climaco said.
Climaco’s finished applications to four California State University campuses and also plans to apply to four University of California campuses.