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Online university application guide BridgeU launches

An online ‘software-as-service’ platform that coaches prospective international students through the US university application process has launched this month, before expanding to UK institutions in March.

"Students ultimately wanted something that was much more comprehensive, much more of a hand-holding experience"

For a monthly fee of around £15, BridgeU guides students through each stage of the application process, providing expert advice and calendar reminders and helping them to sell themselves to universities.

Guidance is tailored to students’ experience, academic strengths and interests using a series of algorithms.

“We were giving the same advice to students and it became quite a repetitive process”

Lucy Stonehill, CEO of education agency Stonehill Education Consultants, cofounded BridgeU with software developer Hywel Carver with after realising much of the advice given in a one-on-one setting could be delivered online and at a more affordable price point.

“We realised that we were giving the same advice to students and it became quite a repetitive process,” she said.

So far some 4,000 students have used the platform in last year’s beta stage, and Stonehill hopes that the site will reach 250,000-300,000 students in its first year.

In the beta stage the site proved popular with students in South Korea, Pakistan, India and Brazil. “We were really tapping into this demographic who I think otherwise would not be able to afford services above that price point,” Stonehill commented.

Initially students could purchase ‘tools’ for different aspects of the application, but the service has evolved into “much more of a hand-holding experience” based on beta testing feedback.

“One of the major consistent trends was that students enjoyed the tools that we’d created but they ultimately wanted something that was much more comprehensive,” Stonehill explained.

Individual scrapbook - with fetched links and imagesAs well as catering to individual students, BridgeU is licensing the platform to schools. Stonehill predicts it will have 150-200 on board by the end of 2015.

Having so far raised US$400,000 in “strategic angel” investment, BridgeU will raise a second round of institutional funding this summer to support the company’s ambitious expansion plans.

Following the UK launch, Stonehill is aiming to have institutions from more countries on the site by the end of the year, eventually encompassing the whole of the EU.

“One of the things that we find when we talk to people about what we’ve built is they often say ‘I really wasn’t aware of the options that were available to me when I applied to universities’,” she said. “We’re trying to make it so that no student has to say that again.”

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