When she attends the University of Chicago this fall, Gisselle Hernandez, the first in her family to graduate high school, will be set with thousands of dollars in scholarship money—all of which she earned through the RaiseMe app.
This revolutionary tool allows students to tap scholarships from thousands of universities by doing what every college-bound hopeful strives to do: getting As in class, participating in sports, volunteering in their community, or working an after-school job.
But instead of getting a scholarship offer in one lump sum senior year, students who use RaiseMe receive scholarships incrementally—and the process can begin as early as freshman year.
How it works
Students choose the schools they’re considering applying to in the app and log achievements as they accomplish them. Gratification is nearly instant: Notifications might pop up from a college saying, “Great job! That’s $500 for scoring well on your essay!” or “That’s $1,000 for earning your Eagle Award for Boy Scouts!”
When students ultimately enroll in a particular school, they reap the rewards of that effort by cashing in on the financial promises the school has made.
“I always looked forward to the end of a semester because I could put all of my achievements into RaiseMe,” says Abigail Chandler, who’ll be attending the University of Texas this fall. “I loved seeing the micro-scholarships accumulate over time with the different colleges. It made me work harder with my grades, because UT is a tough one to crack.”
RaiseMe isn’t just about financial aid. It encouraged me to reach for my dreams.
—Kolette Zamora, incoming college freshman
RaiseMe is based on nudge theory, a concept from behavioral economics that has found that providing people with an instant feedback loop incentivizes certain actions—in this case, excelling as a student.
The most obvious benefit is financial. But another might be even more valuable: RaiseMe lets you see the activities and achievements colleges and universities value most in their student body.
For decades, schools have used a matrix for financial aid—a system that assigns a certain value to academic achievement and extracurricular involvement. RaiseMe simply makes this process transparent.
How it started
Cofounder Preston Silverman started RaiseMe in 2015 after teaching at a school in India and realizing his students had no idea how to earn scholarships for college. At the same time, ballooning student-loan debt was becoming a bigger problem in the United States. He saw RaiseMe as a way to address both issues. Silverman and his cofounder, George Kirkland, pitched it to the University of Rochester, which soon signed up, the first of 10 innovation partners to join the platform in 2013. In 2014 the app was launched nationally to students. Today more than 300 colleges participate, as do about three out of every four high schools in the country. Students and educators at all 36 high schools in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (the nation’s fifth-largest district) use RaiseMe to build a college-going culture on their campus. “In the early days of RaiseMe,” Silverman says, “our whole team went on a road trip to Florida, where we visited 27 high schools in 10 days to learn and hear from students and educators about their thoughts on our platform. I remember how shocked students were when they realized they could earn scholarships for community service, sports, or playing leadership roles in clubs. They had been under the impression that colleges didn’t care about what they were doing until at least junior year of high school.” The app continues to dazzle students. “RaiseMe isn’t just about financial aid,” says Kolette Zamora, another incoming UT Austin freshman. “It encouraged me to reach for my dreams.”