SCH senior Andrew Cramer demonstrates CampusSelect, an online college selection service he helped to create.

by Brendan Sample

At a time of year when most high school seniors are finalizing their college plans before graduating, one Springside Chestnut Hill Academy senior is working to help other students down that very same path.

Along with several other students this past fall, Andrew Cramer created CampusSelect, a Philadelphia-based startup that directly connects prospective college students with undergraduates at their school of interest. By getting to talk directly with these students, high schoolers are able to receive a more honest and convenient look at colleges than a standard campus tour.

With an idea initially stemming with his own frustrations with the college application process, Cramer was able to fully develop his idea at Leangap, a six-week summer program designed to help teenage entrepreneurs launch their own businesses. Though he already had much of the platform thought out going into the competition, Leangap showed Cramer and his team that his original idea centering around overnight visits could be problematic.

“I figured an overnight visit, in which you shadowed a current student for the entire day/night, would be a great way to see if a college would be the best fit,” Cramer recalled. “At Leangap, my idea, CampusOvernight, was selected to be worked on throughout the summer and I was assigned a team that would help me bring the idea to fruition.

“However, after performing more customer validation and market research, we ran into trouble with the initial concept for CampusOvernight and decided to pivot. For the remaining weeks of the program, we began working on the company which soon became CampusSelect. My team and I won the pitch competition at the end of the program.”

Since it has been fully active, CampusSelect has come to include over 50 schools in its main network, with a list that is continually expanding. The site uses video chatting to connect high school students with a select college “mentor,” which has allowed undergraduates to connect with students in countries as far as India and Dubai. Those that have used CampusSelect have praised the impact it has had on their college searches, with some receiving more information about their school of interest from a single video call than in a year of outside research.

The fee for using the service is $25 for a half-hour chat and $45 for an hour.

“I find it very rewarding that my service is helping students, from all around the world, make the best college decision,” Cramer said. “I remember facilitating a call between a student in India and an undergraduate at UCLA, helping the prospective student to get an inside look at the college despite being halfway across the world. Students have said their CampusSelect calls have greatly influenced their decision to apply to certain colleges, for the better. Their personalized conversations allow them to learn more about their desired schools in an unbiased and authentic way.”

With over 1,200 students that applied to be a part of Leangap last year, it’s clear that there is no shortage of high schoolers looking to make their mark as entrepreneurs. Though they may ultimately lack real-world experiences in most cases, Cramer feels that, based on his experience, high school is actually a highly effective time to begin an entrepreneurial venture.

“High school is one of the best times to start a company,” Cramer explained. “You are young, eager, passionate and people want to help you. As a student entrepreneur, I have met many successful and influential businesspeople, which has been an enriching experience. Starting at a young age will only help you grow as a leader and problem-solver, which will benefit you in any sector, not just business.”

After putting in months of work to develop the site with even more development to come in the near future, Cramer has not lost sight of his own college decision as he approaches the end of his time in high school. He is currently waiting to hear back from several undergraduate business programs, and thus has not currently made a final decision on which school he will be attending. Whatever college he does pick, he will have the added benefit of being able to use his own service to help make a decision – something he has already taken advantage of during this process.

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