Introducing App.ly

For the past 2 days, I have been working with 6 other developers on App.ly, a resource for college applicants and their families as they go through the application process.

From my previous work as a college admissions officer, I have seen the challenges that students face in the college application process, including a lack of quality college counseling and information about schools. This week, I discovered the College Scorecard data set, which was released by the Department of Education last fall and contains a wealth of information on US higher education institutions, including never-before-seen metrics on student outcomes. Using this data, our team set out to create a one-stop resource for students to do research on potential colleges and universities.

A user can search for schools by any combination of name, region and locale. They are also able to sort results based on tuition, size, and selectivity. Clicking on a school will bring up a several tables and charts of data. These include statistics you could find on a typical school’s admissions website, such as size, SAT/ACT scores, and popular majors. However, it also includes statistics that can be harder to find but equally important, particularly for first-generation and under-resourced students:

  • What percent of students graduate in 6 years?
  • What percentage of students are on federal aid and how much debt do borrowers have afterwards?
  • What is the net price (full cost minus aid) I might expect to pay based off of my family’s income level?

Users also have the ability to create an account to add schools to their list and add reviews for schools. From the user’s account page, they can keep track of their application checklist and easily compare schools side-by-side.

The technical details

App.ly was built on the Ruby on Rails backend framework. Data comes from the College Scorecard API. We also used the Google Maps API to show a school’s location and the Yelp API to show points of interest around the school. The chartkick library was used for creating graphs.

Thanks to the rest of the App.ly team: Hannah Squier, Alex Lach, Mike Lee, Matt Hinea, Morgan Martin, and Leo Ahnn.