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Sallie Mae introduces mobile app for effective college planning

Sallie Mae, a brand dedicated to servicing student loans, has developed a mobile application to guide users through the tricky process of college planning with a variety of financial tools.

The “College Ahead” mobile app contains various exercises, tips and interactive tools targeting high school students preparing for college in the next few years. The app also provides free access to the company’s Scholarship Search and College Planning Calculator tools.

“We developed the College Ahead Mobile App very much in response to what we’ve been seeing in our research and hearing from students and parents,” said Richard Castellano, spokesman for Sallie Mae, Newark, DE. “While the vast majority of families view college as a critical and worthwhile investment, most families do not have a plan to get there.

“Parents and students have also told us they want step-by-step instructions to prepare for college, and we heard them.”

Financial features
A recent report from Sallie Mae and Ipsos revealed that only 38 percent of American families have set college payment plans. Therefore, the brand saw a gap in the market for an easily accessible mobile app containing important financial tools for high school juniors and seniors and their families.

“Given that tablets and smartphones are becoming more of the standard when it comes to how we receive information, we thought it was critical to ensure all the important information students need to prepare for college is in one place and right at their fingertips,” Mr. Castellano said.

Sallie Mae wanted the services to be interactive and instructional to aid in students making informed decisions about their futures. Users can click through six steps in the app during their college preparation journeys:  Save, Ask, Prep, Select, Apply and Go.

One of the key features of the app is the “College Cost Estimator,” which offers college estimates based on type of degree, location of school and expenses such as textbooks and transportation that are often times forgotten.

Another feature beneficial for students is the “Trophy Case,” which lets users track achievements they would like to include on college applications.

To make college planning easier for parents, the app contains a FAFSA Roadmap to simplify the financial aid process.

Easy tracking
The amount of information needed for applications can be overwhelming and difficult to remember, so Sallie Mae has also added app features related to academics.

The “Exam Prep Checklist” keeps track of materials and dates that students will need for the SAT or ACT standardized exams. “College Planning Calendar” helps with reminders for college milestones such as due dates for application and financial aid.

Meanwhile, the “College Scorecard” provides school comparisons for students in order to enable them to make the ultimate right choice.

“Given that the App is interactive and presents the information in a different and fun way, we hope it will resonate with high school students and families and help them start having the important conversations about planning for college a bit earlier and even better, help them take the necessary steps to get prepared,” Mr. Castellano said.

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York