Choosing the right college can be a challenging experience – especially these days. Thankfully, a Lake Mary brother-sister team is here to help.
If you can’t visit a college campus or talk face-to-face with the students and staff who are there every day, how do you know for sure if that university is right for you? It’s a challenge, but Yash and Yashvi Vardhan may have the answer to help “Unavigate” the college-selection process.
The siblings created the free online and app-enabled Unavigate service to virtually connect high schoolers with college students for advice and guidance about the right university to choose. Launched in mid-July, Unavigate.org is described as “a one-stop service for your college journey.”
Yashvi is in her second year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But when she was a senior at Seminole High, she found the college application process daunting.
“Being the first child in my family to pass through the college-application system, I had to figure out every step on my own,” she says. “My brother is going through it right now.”
Without anyone to advise Yashvi about certain colleges or direct her to apply for specific scholarships, she felt a little lost. It would have been helpful to connect with a mentor who could tell her to focus on certain priorities when deciding where she wanted to go to school.
“Unavigate is about trying to help other high schoolers and seniors who don’t have those resources,” Yashvi says.
The Unavigate system is relatively simple. College-aged advisors connect virtually to serve as mentors to high schoolers seeking advice, answering any questions they may have.
“It allows students to gain the information that they need to make the right decisions about their futures,” explains Yashvi.
As of now, the organization has about 80 advisors who are students or alumni at 25 to 30 different universities.
Colleges range from many Florida universities to Harvard, Duke, Princeton, the University of California at Berkeley, NYU, MIT, Georgia Tech, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University, Vanderbilt University, and of course, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having advisors on campus is especially helpful, as the global pandemic is throwing a wrench into traditional on-campus tours.
“Given the current situation, traveling isn’t as accessible,” Yashvi says.
The group of advisors started out with Yashvi’s friends and has grown to friends of friends and other associates who have signed up to help.
“A lot of my friends went to amazing schools, so we started there,” Yashvi says. “Right now, we’re in the process of signing up more people through word-of-mouth and social media.”
Like the website, the brand-new Unavigate app presents a questionnaire that matches college-bound students with suitable advisors. The match is based on school preferences, an interest in a certain field of study, or a hobby.
“The survey that you fill out has a variety of questions that range from what you want to do or what your major might be,” explains Yashvi. “I knew that I wanted to go into medicine. But, for example, my brother didn’t necessarily know.”
Undecided students are matched by certain interests or the schools they might be researching.
“Even if you go the undecided path, there’s no issue with that because we do have advisors who were undecided at first,” says Yashvi. “There are definitely people they can talk to who can help figure out the right schools based on what they think they might want to do.”
Once students are matched to college advisors, they are able to chat about any questions they may have regarding the application process or about campus life at a specific school. Students are in direct contact with advisors via text messaging or the app.
The Unavigate website also offers other features that are helpful to high-school students. A weekly blog written by advisors discusses topics from dealing with imposter syndrome and writing a college essay to declaring a major. As an additional service, the website shares local volunteer opportunities for Central Florida students to earn service hours, which are required for most scholarships. A monthly newsletter is sent to both students and parents, as well, which shares relevant scholarship opportunities and application deadlines.
Since July, more than 100 high schoolers have signed up for the service. To further increase awareness, Unavigate has recruited two or three student ambassadors at each Seminole County high school. The ambassadors help spread the word about Unavigate – telling students about the program, how to use it, and letting them know there are advisors to help if they need it.
“We are focusing on Seminole County schools, so we want to make sure that everyone in the county is aware of Unavigate and can take advantage of it,” says Yashvi.
If you know a high-school student who needs some guidance, check out Unavigate.org or find the app in Apple’s App Store.
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