ACT Profile site borrows social networking strategies to keep high school students connected as they choose college majors and career paths.
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Many college students must choose majors even before they start college classes. ACT Profile, the first free social college and career planning community, aims to help high-school students explore careers, narrow down majors and connect with like-minded peers.
"It's a critical time to be able to set a path and decide what you need to do," said John Corrigan, VP of customer experience at ACT and creator of ACT Profile, of 11th and 12th grade. ACT was previously known as American College Testing. "We wanted to create something of value to students." In 2012, 1.8 million students took the ACT test. The company estimates that ACT Profile will reach about 10 million.
Students can create a free ACT Profile account on a phone, tablet or computer. ACT registration is not required, but members can register for the test and view their scores on the site.
After logging in, students complete assessments to gauge their skills, abilities and professional values. The results are used to create "career maps" that show how students' strengths and interests align with different fields. Clicking different areas of a map lets students explore the responsibilities, training, salary and projected growth of various jobs.
Each career has a list of suitable college majors, what students will learn, how long schooling will take and other related careers. It gives students the power of setting their own paths without spending hours sitting in a guidance counselor's office.
In navigating the site, it's clear that social media was a key influencer in attracting high-school students. "We're working to meet students where they are," said Corrigan.
After they determine their career goals, students can connect with counselors or like-minded peers. As on Facebook, they can send requests to connect and can deny unwanted requests. The ACT Profile home page, where students can post updates on college searches and career plans, resembles Twitter.
The ACT Profile community was built on the Heroku cloud platform with the help of information technology consulting company Appirio.
Appirio co-founder and CSO Narinder Singh said his company recommended Heroku to support ACT Profile because the site requires a flexible, fast and secure platform to accommodate millions of expected users as they use their accounts through college and beyond. Cloud technology can scale to handle that amount without additional hardware management. It can also support the necessary changes to accommodate student feedback.