uTead offers a social network to ease complicated college-admissions process

Today’s high school students are the always-on, always-connected, digital generation and have no time for inefficient or paper-based communications, or especially ones that don’t leverage their peers who are involved in the same things they happen to be.

uTead, a name derived from universal Tool for education advancement, is an online service that facilitates the college admissions process. It’s a social network specifically for prospective students that enables them to connect with university representatives, high school counselors and their peers while also providing completely new ways for colleges and universities to interact with today’s tech-savvy generation.

I talked with co-founder Erik Eliason about how the Minnesota Cup Student Entrepreneur award-winning uTead was started, what led them to create it, and where they’re headed now that it launched in beta last week.

Erik Eliason and Naiomi Bisram, two students at the University of Minnesota, started uTead after personally experiencing their own challenges in the graduate school admissions process. Knowing that there was a better way to connect students with college possibilities, they set forth in building a site with a strong social networking component.

Their reasons why uTead makes sense for a prospective college student is summed up on their About page: “Well to be honest, applying to college can be quite a headache. We know because we’ve been there and we feel your pain. You’re busy, don’t have much time to spend looking for the perfect college and would prefer to do things you really want to — like chill on Facebook. We know.

As the dad of a 20-year-old college student, I know all too well the challenges, and time it takes, to gather college information, sift through it, apply to those of your choice, wait for acceptance or rejection and listen to the student who has gained feedback from friends going after the same institutions.

Their process is simple:

Sign up
Search for and match to universities, save matches, view admissions events and more
Create a profile and connect to peers and university representatives and get into your university!

But is uTead too simple? Is there enough there to engage a prospective student for more than, say, a year? How will they forge a relationship with a student that will be more than a quick, convenient one vs. one that lasts for several years?

These were just a few of the questions that I asked Erik when we talked. He had strong answers for all my questions — and the entire team of nine folks have clearly looked at all the possibilities and whittled them down to a Phase 1 approach in order to get launched and moving — but they know that they’ve got big visibility challenges in front of them to get yet another social network noticed and used by either students or academia.

What was interesting was discussing all manner of possible add-ons to the service to maximize use. One I was wondering about was related to file formats for allowing students to apply online and then have uTead pass along the data to a college and university for integration into their systems. As we discussed it, the enormity of something like that upon first launch seemed nuts even to me, and thankfully the uTead team talked these through and made the tough calls on what to include, and not include, in this initial launch.

In their press release (thankfully short and to-the-point) they did detail something that I know is key, “In a study conducted by Education Dynamics of 1,000 college bound high school students, 82% of them indicated they would reply to an instant message from a college, while over 60% indicated they would participate in an online chat with a college. Colleges, however, have been decidedly slow to adopt social networking into their recruitment efforts and are still very much relying on traditional media sources.

If you’re a student today and always-on, always-connected and taking in huge streams of information and communications from different people, devices and from sites, wouldn’t you want to be connected and receive college info and college representative communications just like you do everything else? Absolutely … and this is just one reason why uTead is on to something.

If you’re even a lay student of demography, you’ll know that the children of baby boomers (called “Millennials” or the older term “Generation Y”), are another huge boom of humans who will experience increased costs of their college education, competition for jobs, along with their own attitudes and complete, intuitive understanding of digital technologies. This major influx of young people will drive enormous demand for exactly the sort of service uTead has launched, and their market is just waiting there for them to capture.

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