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While RaiseMe is geared more toward students than teachers, educators can support students by encouraging them to build positive digital footprints, apply for scholarships, and think seriously about college -- especially if they haven't before. Students may be motivated to see money add up with improvement in grades and increased GPAs. Teachers can use RaiseMe as a real-life learning tool to help students gain experience with budgeting for college. Career teachers and counselors can help students see how the work they put in today can translate into academic and financial benefits down the road, putting students in the driver's seat and showing them that college can be a reality.
It's not clear whether RaiseMe enables students to earn more money than a college would otherwise have offered, but it can be a motivator for students who are on the fence about applying at all. Teachers will want to monitor closely to ensure that students are keeping up with their portfolios in order to maximize awards, and students -- especially those in high-needs schools -- will need additional guidance and support navigating the college application process.
RaiseMe is a website (and iOS app) that connects colleges with high school and college transfer students via the promise of micro-scholarships. Schools subscribe to the service to be connected to students, but students sign up for free. After creating their profile, students can use search filters on the site to target schools they're interested in attending. From there they can upload transcripts, work experience, extracurricular activities, volunteer and service hours, and even media to their profiles. Colleges award small amounts of money -- the amounts for each activity vary from school to school -- to students in grades 9 and up who meet their criteria, enabling students to get a clear picture of how much aid they'll get at a given school if they attend. Scholarships are contingent on successful application, acceptance, and enrollment in the school.
If students allow it, school personnel can connect with students to guide, verify, or monitor activity. Students can access and modify their profiles via the RaiseMe website or the mobile app, making it possible for them to see scholarship money add up in real time. It's not clear, however, how secure this site is. Although there's a verification and reporting process for educators, and no student outside the grade range can sign up, the email and educator ID verifications may be easy to manipulate. As with any site that collects personal information, students will want to be careful about what they share and with whom.
The debates between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, whether or not students should be paid for achieving, and whether or not a focus on grades inhibits the joy of learning all loom large in education. The opportunity to gain instant and delayed gratification simultaneously may encourage reluctant, financially strapped, or unmotivated students to achieve if they believe that their future plans will be positively impacted. While the focus on grades and test scores can be subjective, students have the opportunity with RaiseMe to showcase all of their strengths, perhaps creating a better college match for their particular skill set and passions.
One thing is certain: The current college application and acceptance process is in need of repair, and all too often qualified applicants are overlooked or fail to apply due to lack of resources or connections. While no one tool will help a student overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, financial or otherwise, RaiseMe tries to level the playing field by providing students with access to schools they might otherwise miss. All of this, of course, is contingent upon whether or not RaiseMe delivers on its promise -- that colleges will indeed award enrollees the money they've earned.
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