Gamifying The College Decision

My name is Josh Fratis and I am a sophomore at the University of PIttsburgh studying Digital Narrative and Interactive Design. I love bringing storytelling to the unique affordances of interactive media. Though my concentration is in game design, I’ve always had a passion for thinking critically about education and the needs of students. There’s a certain symmetry of design between a game and a classroom. The best games are always teaching their players something new, and likewise the best classrooms often resemble games. This is why I’m so excited to be working on the College Decisionator.

As the Lead Front End Developer on the College Decisionator app, I am tasked with crafting an engaging user interface that will allow a student to intuitively explore the app and motivate them to return. This comes with a unique set of challenges, as engaging students with their personal, college decision journey is at once both one of the most challenging, and one of the most important parts of the process. 

High schoolers today have learned to fear the college decision process, often approaching it with anxiety and hopelessness. In my own experience, I’ve seen many students come to resent the stressful journey. Ultimately, this creates outcomes that are far from ideal for the student. When a student does not receive the support they need to engage meaningfully with their college decision, they don’t make the best choice they can, and thus may end up somewhere they feel they don’t belong. The problem is evident. As of 2016, 40% of students who had started college six years ago had not yet completed a degree. 2 million students who begin a college program will drop out before earning a degree. 

It’s my responsibility on the College Decisionator team to create a space for the student to engage with their journey, so that ultimately, more students make better decisions for their future selves. Leveraging my background in game design, I hope to create a gamified user experience that transforms the stressful, complex, high investment decision into a game the student is excited to play. 

One of the reasons I’m so excited to work on the College Decisionator is that for the first time in a professional setting, I’m actually doing the work I hope to make my career. I can’t say for certain where I hope to end up, but I know I want to continue combining storytelling and technology to craft unique experiences. At the moment, I’ve set my sights on working in the games industry as a game developer. 

Thank you for reading. I’m so excited to begin work on the College Decisionator app and to help carve a clearer path for prospective college students.

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