One-Stop Admissions App

McGavock Educators Develop One-Stop App to Help Students Navigate College Admissions
Posted on 11/23/2022
Angela Allen and Laura Vignon

As they guided students through the many ins and outs of the college admissions process a few years ago, McGavock High School teachers Angela Allen and Laura Vignon realized students needed a better way to organize all the information being sent to, and demanded of, them. College Leaps founders Laura Vignon and Angela Allen

“It wasn’t all in one place. It wasn’t very easy,” Vignon said. “Even as teachers, it’s very hard to navigate and help students through the process. So we kind of came up with our own systems that worked in our classes.”

And what’s the one place where teenagers can most easily see and work with all those pieces of data? Their phones.

So an app was born.

The CollegeLeaps app is the one-stop shop Allen and Vignon created for students to keep up with their college applications, essays, resumes, financial aid opportunities and admissions decisions. Developed largely during the long quarantine months of 2020 and available for free on iPhone and Android devices, CollegeLeaps was recognized this fall by the Nashville Public Education Foundation, which gave Allen and Vignon the Annette Eskind Inspiring Educator Award and $5,000.

Allen and Vignon said they've looked at other admissions apps and haven’t found another one quite like CollegeLeaps. They plan to put the award money back into development and keep building on the foundation they’ve created so they can make it more and more effective for students. CollegeLeap app screenshot of checklist

“We want these kids to have all these options,” said Allen, who was McGavock’s dean of students and recently became senior director of high school and post-secondary for the Martha O'Bryan Center, working with the academic student unions at MNPS’s Maplewood, Hunters Lane and Stratford high schools as well as students who have graduated from those programs.

Vignon, McGavock’s dean of instruction and AVID coordinator, said many students, especially those who will be the first in their family to go to college, don’t have anyone at home who can help them with their college searches. Some don’t even realize what they’re capable of achieving beyond high school.

“Even parents who went to college, the process has changed,” Vignon said. “It’s all digital now.”

And in an important process that takes time, patience, determination and resilience, “just knowing what to ask is helpful,” Allen added.

CollegeLeaps tackles those challenges by taking students through each step of the admissions process – and celebrating with them when they finish. It links to application forms, websites and other key pieces of information. And students can share everything with their parents or teachers.

Mariam Iskandar, who graduated from McGavock in 2021 and is now a sophomore biology major at Lipscomb University, said she moved with her family to Nashville from Egypt just before she started high school. As an aspiring first-generation college student, she didn’t know much about college applications or the ACT, and the COVID lockdown certainly didn’t help. College Leap app categories screenshot

But Allen’s AVID class, which established a strong college-going culture, and CollegeLeaps helped her understand what she needed to do and keep the pieces straight, with each step following the previous one in logical order. 

“The app is just something that should be essential to those who are pursuing a college education,” Iskandar said.

CollegeLeaps has about 500 users, including some from outside MNPS. Vignon said they plan to keep growing the app’s capacity by adding a career component and showing students all their options after graduation. They also want to develop relationships with colleges and universities so the app will be able to import key documents directly.

They also see an opportunity for school districts to use CollegeLeaps to help them keep up with seniors’ progress – and celebrate them when they reach key milestones in the process. And students often request a “social aspect,” Allen said, that would let them keep up with and celebrate their friends along the way.


College Leaps Video 

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