A new USC-produced card game offers high school students an innovative way to prepare for college.
Application Crunch, a game produced by the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis at the USC Rossier School of Education in partnership with USC’s Game Innovation Lab, uses simple rules to teach students the strategy of applying to college.
The game is now available in the Pertusati University Bookstore and at collegeologygames.com. The website also includes the option of donating a game to a local school.
Players start the game with an assigned role, such as a student with average grades looking for a scholarship, and have to make a series of choices to help that student achieve their goals.
William Tierney, director of CHEPA, said the center developed Application Crunch to give low-income students “access to higher education, a mentoring program and a writing program to help them get into college and be better prepared for college.”
Though many college preparatory programs are available, Tierney said few are affordable enough for low-income or first-generation college students.
“If you think about poor schools, we’ve got most of the kids as first- generation college applicants,” Tierney said. “And then they’re in schools where there are very few of their peers going to college and they often don’t have adequate advising.”
Tierney first realized the need for a program of this kind three years ago, when he approached then-Provost C. L. Max Nikias for a grant. With university funding, Rossier brought USC’s Game Innovation Lab onto the project and chose the name Collegeology Games.
Graduate students in Rossier’s Ph.D. and research programs also helped develop the game.
Post-doctoral research associate Zoë Corwin worked on research and development for Application Crunch and said the key to the game is its strategy.
“If you are role-playing and you are picking the stakes and learning strategy, like, ‘I need to be on top of my deadline and get good grades to get into college,’ you learn so much more,” Corwin said.
Collegeology Games conducted focus groups in L.A. high schools and compiled statistics from national surveys to make Application Crunch as relevant to students as possible. Tierney said Rossier has continued to conduct more research on the most efficient ways to teach students.
“We’re at a university, [so] we are concerned about not just creating a game but creating a game that can be valid and reliable,” Tierney said. “We’re constantly doing research to make sure the learning is as [maximized] as possible.”
Following the success of Facebook applications like FarmVille and Family Feud, Collegeology Games hopes to launch a Facebook version of the game in March to reach more high school students.
“Imagine how you would respond to someone lecturing you about college versus a game with social networking that’s fun. Information is good, but it has to be fun for kids to get interested,” Corwin said. “That’s why this game is working so well.”