FREEPORT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A Freeport-based company that's only about a year old has won a grant of up to $100,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its reach.
Possibility U is a website that helps high school students choose a college based not only on their interests, but on the likelihood that they'll get in and receive grant aid. The grant allows Possibility U to create an app for Facebook that will reach students where they spend a lot of time already.
The company launched in 15 schools last year. Students at Morse High School in Bath are among those who have been using the Possibility U website, and Guidance Counselor Leslie Trundy said it's been a real asset.
Trundy said, "The more I learn about it, the more it excites me in terms of the potential it has for really giving kids the curriculum they need to know about the college admissions process and their families."
Sydne Campbell, a Morse High Senior, said one feature of the website really appealed to her. It was a so-called "heat map" that shows the likelihood a student will get into a given college and get aid, based on GPA, class rank, and SAT or ACT scores.
Campbell said she didn't feel very confident about her chances, until she saw that map. "It made me feel better because it's not all about the SAT scores, which I was really worried about."
Possibility U CEO Betsy Peters said Facebook will help the company in a couple ways. First, students share a lot of information on their Facebook pages that might help the company better match them with colleges. Peters said, "The more data we take in, the more we can start to watch how individuals can play with that data and prefer that data, and the more we can make good recommendations, just like Amazon."
Peters also said the Facebook app that the company is creating could give students reminders on when applications to schools are due, and messages from guidance counselors about the college search. It also could let students know about alums or current students from colleges they're interested in that live nearby.
"The beauty of integrating with Facebook is that you can bring that peer network in while you're making decisions," Peters said.
Peters said representatives of Possibility U will be heading to California soon to meet with people at Facebook and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to work on the app. Possibility U is one of 21 companies that received the grant, and representatives from all those companies will do some work together as well. The hope is to have an app ready to test by this summer, and for the app to be available to all students in September.