Refining the search for higher education, Schoolapply

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To better help those looking for university and college courses around the world Schoolapply, a Switzerland-born ed-tech startup, is looking to university alumni.

Still in its infancy, they are quickly refining the search for those in the Middle East, looking for the right course to further their academic career and in the process, learning lessons on how to improve the quality of their search engine.

Schoolapply is working with the global branding agency, Universum, to survey 2,000 institutions, gathering information from prospective alumni about their careers after graduating. “These can then be baked into the search experience,” founder and CEO Daniel Bjarne told Wamda.

“There are so many other dimensions [to choosing a university],” said Bjarne, “it’s not necessarily the ranking that matters the most, maybe it’s value for money, or how good the uni is at taking care of international students.” In particular, they have learned that budget has a tremendous impact on how a person chooses a course - they have now have added tuition fees to the search.

Let the search begin.

It was while working in student recruitment for universities that Bjarne, a native of Sweden, saw a massive problem with transparency. “Students were treated as a commodity, local agencies would recruit them on behalf of universities and then wouldn’t look after them, as in, they weren’t take into consideration the student’s need for advice, career prospects or get them the best value for money.” According to the founder whether or not SchoolApply has a partnership with a university (they currently have 100) they will lead a user to the best university for them.

Building Schoolapply

The coding for Schoolapply started in early October 2015 and by February 2016, they launched their site. Earlier this year Bjarne and cofounder Eric Van Delden closed a funding round of $1 million led by Universum and including Peter Jetzel, marketing director for Google Northern Europe, and Swedish music manager Ash Pournouri. In total $2.2 million has been raised for the startup. They list more than 4,000 universities in the US, UK and Canada. Most students using the platform are from UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi, and so far they’ve placed around 50 students at various universities. Their aim for 2017 is placing 4,000 students globally.

In early 2016, they also opened a student service center for their admissions officers in Dubai. “We’re getting great interest from UAE, Saudi and Qatar and that’s also where we see really high quality prospective students with a clear idea of what they want to study,” Bjarne said.

They’re not yet seeing it going a flow of students towards institutions in the Middle East but they say they are also not actively promoting Schoolapply in the UK or US. Bjarne believes that once they do they’ll start to see a flow of students coming to the region.

The admissions officers that make up Schoolapply’s staff help users looking for courses to navigate an often tricky and bureaucratic university admissions path. For Bjarne, it is their focus on what the student seeks from higher education that differentiates them from university recruiters. “We’re democratizing international study,” says the company blurb.

Daniel Bjarne. (Image via Schoolapply)

Those using the site pay $50 for a consultation with Schoolapply, where the startup will help students with their applications and then provide feedback on schools, programs, and applications.

Universities don’t pay to be on the platform but can pay to have more traffic come their way through marketing campaigns, blog posts, or articles on Facebook.

With ambitions to go into East Asia and Latin America, they saw Dubai as a good location for working on the East Asia and Middle Eastern markets. At launch, they had on board reputable UK and US colleges and universities and since then have added Canada and Australia, as well as Singapore, and Malta.

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