This week’s Startup Spotlight features Salil Sethi, founder of High Tech college insights platform, SchoolWise. The New York-based service simplifies the college admissions process, using a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning tools (ML), and expert human advice to help high school students find their perfect college fit.
After graduating with a BSc from the Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA from MIT, Sethi began work at McKinsey. There he spent four years helping a number of High Tech clients solve their business problems, and soon noticed a clear trend – that the education sector was being consistently neglected.
While the education industry is traditionally slower to adapt new trends, Sethi saw an opportunity to pioneer the advanced technologies he’d become familiar with, confident that an intelligent application of data science could offer significant breakthroughs in this space. But where to start?
The overwhelming and frustrating process of college admissions seemed like the logical choice. Not only did Sethi have considerable first-hand experience of this, but the latest research suggested that only 40% of high school students were currently graduating from college. This was surely a number that could be improved upon with the provision of more sophisticated decision-making tools at the outset.
Sethi founded SchoolWise in 2015 with exactly this mission – to simplify the college admissions process and empower students to make better, more informed decisions, leveraging the latest machine learning tools and artificial intelligence algorithms in order to do so.
Although other platforms exist to help students and their families make the big college decision, SchoolWise is the first to apply a High Tech solution to the process. This includes user tools powered IBM Watson, a platform that can deliver personalized insights from large amounts of unstructured data.
By looking at data and historical trends, SchoolWise also ensures that the insights it provides through various online tools – from a personality matcher to a financial aid calculator – stays rooted in fact, differentiating it further from rival human advice-based platforms. (The option to connect personally with a human admissions expert is available for a fee, but it is not part of their core free service.)
SchoolWise offers high school students a selection of free tools to help them better understand their prospective school’s DNA, going far beyond the basic stats that have traditionally been available.
Users can type in any US college name to access a sophisticated student personality analysis (drawn from over 30 different dimensions), the average acceptance rate of its male and female applicants, and the average financial aid available in grants and loans.
From this basic overview, users can delve deeper, using proprietary SchoolWise AI and Machine Learning algorithms to gain greater insights:
The Personality Matcher analyzes an applicant’s writings and essays to determine their suitability for a particular college; the Financial Aid Calculator allows users to predict the annual cost of attendance based on their family income; the Calendar keeps candidates up to date with relevant college deadlines; and the Admission Guidance section curates the best advice from around the web.
In addition, SchoolWise offers students a payable feature – personalized online guidance from an admissions expert.
It’s a combination of all of these tools – High Tech and human – which Sethi hopes will help students to avoid unpleasant surprises when they arrive at college, and serve to reduce the college dropout rate in the long term.
SchoolWise’s unique online platform has been featured in The Journal, a publication dedicated to informing and educating K-12 senior-level district and school administrators about advancing the learning process through education – a goal that underpins each one of the services offered by SchoolWise.
The long-term mission of SchoolWise is simple: to simplify the college admissions process through data analytics and expert insights, helping more students to attend college, and most importantly, be happy there.
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