UProspie, a college tour platform, is looking to disrupt the traditional university visit for millions of students across the country. In an article from ChicagoInno, the company’s founder, Jason Li (a Founders Fellow and member of the College Founders program) speaks about raising over $50,000 in startup capital and how his business will help give opportunities to low-income students. Read the full story here.
What started as a side project for two University of Chicago first years frustrated with their college admissions process has now turned into a prospective student matching service that raised over $50,000 in startup competitions over six months.
It’s called UProspie. The problem they are aiming to solve is that tours and brochures don’t help prospective students connect with the true campus life experience, nor understand what it is like to be a nontraditional student on campus. On the flip side, college students are always looking for ways to make quick cash but may not have time for a full or part-time job.
With that in mind UProspie connects prospective students and college students for on-campus visits in order to give students a real taste of on campus life. Prospective students pay current students around $30 for the visit (the price may still change). UProspie takes 30 percent of that for revenue and to subsidize campus trips for low-income students. There is also a social feed that awards students badges for participating (and ups the chances that a college student will be picked by a “prospie” for a campus visit).
“[The] platform is just the launchpad for more personal and interactive meet ups between college students and high school students,” said cofounder Jason Li.
The idea came to Li and fellow UChicago first year Raymond Han after they found it was difficult to get a full picture of campus life from tours, brochures, and admissions counselors. It largely felt up to chance. “If your tour guide is an art major, they may know nothing about the entrepreneurship or business program,” said Li.
So they decided to create a platform that could initiate more genuine meetings and tailored information to prospective students that aren’t being served by the current admissions process. For example, they recently matched a prospective with dyslexia with a current college student that also had a learning disability, who could speak to the disability resources on campus. “That’s the kind of info that students really need but is not out there right now,” said Li.
He sees similar application for low-income students who are the least likely to visit campuses or consider selective universities– often because they don’t have a connection a current student. UProspie addresses these issues in a few ways. There is a social stream where prospies can find a current students to chat with based on their interests or background. This allows for a personal connection without an expensive visit to campus, and also allows for students to hear about the experience of someone who came from a similar neighborhood or town and how they dealt with the transition to college.
Though the platform has only been developing since January, they have had around 700 early-access sign ups to test out the platform and ready for a larger launch by the end of this summer. As of last week, UProspie was open to both prospies and current students. The aim is to be on 30 campuses by the end of the summer. Large universities that don’t have the bandwidth to develop more personalized admissions visits have also been in touch with the UProspie founders to create university-specific programs.
The team has also leveraged their connections among elite university students to kickstart development. The initial UProspie team included students at Northwestern, UChicago, and Columbia University, and they were able to spread the word they were looking for interns across some of the top engineering schools in the country. In the end they had about 100 applicants for three spots.
In addition, Han and Li applied for a slew of venture competitions just “for the practice” said Li, but they were accepted to a dozen and over the course of several months won over $50,000 in funding at venture competitions ranging from Northwestern’s Venture Challenge ($17,000) and UChicago’s New Venture Challenge ($10,000). Their success is no doubt in part because Li came in a startup pitch pro– one of his previous ventures was funded on Shark Tank.
But because they didn’t know how successful they would be, Li and Han had both accepted summer jobs in San Francisco for the summer. Now they both go to their day jobs, then come home to a shared apartment and work on UProspie at night. This fall they will return to UChicago to start their second year of college, and help students who were in their shoes a year or two earlier get connected on campus.
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