Overview

RaiseMe partners with colleges and universities to offer students scholarships for their high school achievements starting in the 9th grade. For example, if a student receives an A in Biology, Carnegie Mellon University will give them a $300 scholarship. Students can easily rack up thousands in scholarships by adding courses, extracurriculars, work experience, test scores - everything they’ve accomplished in high school.

To receive scholarships for their high school achievements students must:

  1. Follow partner colleges to earn from them
  2. Add 15-course credits (e.g., A in Biology = 1 course credit) to their portfolio
  3. Meet any college-specific requirements (e.g., Maintain a certain GPA)
  4. Complete the course credit and college-specific requirements by a deadline

When a student successfully follows these steps, the college they ultimately enroll in will honor their earnings on RaiseMe and apply it to their financial aid package.

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Students build a portfolio that is comparable to a LinkedIn profile for high school achievements. 

The Problem

Before I joined in late 2016, RaiseMe's web product struggled to effectively explain its value to students, and how to receive scholarships: Follow colleges → Add achievements → Earn scholarships...also known as the “loop".

These issues manifested themselves in several ways. Our students:

  • Not accurately describe how the product works when referring other students
  • Didn't know what was required of them to earn their scholarships on RaiseMe
  • Were confused about where their earnings come from (RaiseMe? Colleges? Both?)
  • Didn't understand the connection between "Following" a college and earning from that school
  • Didn't understand how and when they will receive their scholarships

Because of all of these misunderstandings, RaiseMe added stress and confusion to the college application process and in some cases disrupted financial planning in ways that make it worse for students and their families.

Prioritize Student Confusion

For our first iOS app, my job as the Lead Product Designer for the app and Director of Design was to address student confusion. That meant auditing and scrutinizing every part of our existing web product rather than just translating it for mobile.

Before beginning the project, I looked at metrics as well as conducted surveys and remote interviews with students to better understand the problem from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives. This led to prioritizing these goals for launch: 

  1. Educate students on how RaiseMe works
  2. Demonstrate the Follow → Add → Earn loop
  3. Communicate the requirements in order to earn their scholarships and how to receive them

Priority 1: Educate students on how RaiseMe works

As a company, we’ve struggled to effectively explain to our students the value of RaiseMe and how it works. Our homepage provides a simplified explanation, but for most students, it’s better communicated by their high school teachers and counselors who demo RaiseMe in the classroom.

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Existing homepage where most students learn about RaiseMe

App Education Slides

I thought it was important to replicate the hands-on approach students received from their teachers through education slides everyone would see when they download our app. Through a series of brainstorms with key stakeholders such as customer support, product, and student outreach, we outlined the key questions we heard the most that needed to be answered in these slides:

  • RaiseMe's value for students
  • Requirements and what they have to do (e.g., Add course credits and other achievements)
  • What students receive (i.e., scholarships), and where the money comes from (i.e., colleges)
  • How and when students get their scholarships (i.e., directly apply and enroll)
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Through this collaboration of different minds, we developed education slides that visually communicate how RaiseMe works:

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Illustrations by Rachel Schmitz

Education Slide Animations

We also wanted to communicate each slide through the use of animations. I looked at a number of prototyping tools such as Framer, Principle App, and Facebook Keyframes for starters. Through more research, we landed on Airbnb’s Lottie in which you build animations in Adobe After Effects that then export as JSON. Using Lottie resulted in a seamless translation between design and code with no trade-offs:

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Priority 2: Guide students through the Follow Colleges → Add Achievements → Earn Scholarships loop

We ran multiple experiments on the web to find the best approaches to guide students through this loop. The most successful experiment was during sign up where students follow their first set of colleges. Then they were taken on a walk through of adding their first achievement, such as a course they've received A or B grade in. Entering A's or B's automatically lead to earning a scholarship on RaiseMe, so by the time they've reached the product, students were instantly awarded their first scholarship earnings.

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Mobile web experiment where we tested our existing signup against a version that included a first achievement walkthrough before entering the product

First Achievement Walkthrough

Including the additional walkthrough at sign up made creating an account exhaustive, but it took students through the Follow → Add  → Earn loop. I had to really weigh the pros and cons of this approach over others, backend constraints, and what is necessary for students to provide in order for our evaluation algorithm to award scholarships. What made me confident in this approach and carry it to iOS was the mWeb experiment results. We saw no decrease in the sign-up rates, and students in the experiment were adding 3+ achievements after signing up vs 0-1 in the non-walkthrough experiment.

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After students sign up for RaiseMe, they are guided through adding their first achievement

View Earnings

Once a student has completed the walkthrough, and before they’re able to browse the app, we can instantly reward them with earnings from the colleges they just followed. Students are shown a success modal which directs them to the earnings tab where they can see their achievement turn into real scholarship earnings closing the loop:

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Students also use this tab to track and manage the earnings from their followed colleges

Priority 3: Communicate the requirements in order to earn their scholarships and how to receive them

Even when students understood the loop and were earning thousands of scholarship dollars, most were unaware of the requirements that they needed to meet by their senior year of high school for the colleges to honor their earnings on RaiseMe.

For their earnings to be applied to their financial aid package students must:

  1. Meet the 15 course credit requirement
  2. Meet any requirements by college their earning from
  3. Complete this by the college's self-imposed deadline
  4. Directly apply and enroll into the college

The web version of RaiseMe did not clearly articulate these requirements, because of this most students were under the impression they were always in good standing, but in reality were at risk of losing what they've earned. For students who meet the requirements, they were often confused on how to receive their earnings which led to numerous support tickets. In either case, students we referencing the same module on the web that acted as a earnings status and alert tracker:

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The treatments for the many status types were not scalable

Earnings Status Audit

Since earnings are part of our core experience, I brought together the entire design team to audit and develop a new pattern to better communicate the different statuses. Our goal was to make the status treatment work for both mobile and web and have the ability to contain text so students can understand what they mean and how to address them when they come up:

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Conclusion

RaiseMe for iOS launched in August of 2017. We immediately reached 50k+ app downloads and ranked in the top 25 for education apps. We've maintained an average App Store rating of 4.8/5.0 with over 1,000+ reviews. Sign ups, sessions, time spent, achievements added, and referrals have increased significantly surpassing even our initial goals and expectations. 

Download RaiseMe for iOS

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