Scaling personalized study guidance and orientation for refugees? Sounds difficult if you think about some of the experiences from countless preparatory programs and individual counseling sessions that attempt to support refugees on their way to a German university.
After years of individual counseling of refugees, gaining insights about their challenges and needs, we asked ourselves: How can we serve an even larger number of people – ideally anyone who is interested in studying in Germany? We developed a digital tool that provides users with comprehensive and personalized information, specific next steps and recommendations: the Kiron University Application Checklist.
The problems we had to address were many. Here is how:
– The German (higher) education system is highly complex and there are many different ways to navigate through it
First, the user completes a quick orientation feature to reflect on their own goals and motivation for going to university and to relate this to the German educational system. Then they can make an informed decision to continue or to look into alternative educational pathways.
– Refugees have incredibly diverse educational backgrounds and educational goals
– Conditions to enter German Higher Education Institutions (HEI) with a foreign educational background are complicated and depend on many individual factors
Interactive features inform the user about what sort of university entrance qualification they might have, and if they are formally qualified to enter a German HEI. They can cross-check their own language levels (German and English) with the requirements set by HEI for access.
– Every HEI – and in most cases even every study track – sets their own application requirements
– Application procedures are in some cases standardized (e.g. uni-assist), and in some cases not
A study track research section guides them from broad interests and preferences through to saving specific university programs. The tool can be used to research individual application requirements on the university webpage, save them, and tick them off. The user can also check how to get certified and translated documents to include in their application. An application tracker allows to check the status of the filed applications.
– Time is of the essence, deadlines to obtain certain documents and send applications are easily missed
A timeline helps the user to understand the scope of the application process and shows which tasks should be completed when.
– All important information is technically out there, but it is not centralized, let alone personalized or easily accessible
The checklist bundles all necessary information for the user. This makes it easier to track exactly what needs to be done and when. It also provides additional information about financial and residency questions, and additional steps in the application process, such as TestAS, interviews, CVs and motivation letters, or preparatory internships.
– Refugees are often discouraged by the complexity of the application process and will give up pursuing a higher education path without individual guidance
In each category, interactive elements and questionnaires help users assess their current situation and give personalized feedback about their next steps to take. This way, users can continue updating their checklist over time and get closer to applying to university.
– There is no digital offer out there yet that addresses these problems
Kiron fills this gap: the University Application Checklist consists of four sections with multiple categories. Users are free to work on it and progress at their own pace. Motivational elements, such as unlocking categories through certain actions and clear progress indicators guide users through the content.
The reality check for our checklist
This iteration of the checklist has been available to Kiron users in Germany since spring 2019. To date, 1366 Kiron users actively used it. After evaluating the accuracy and testing the usability of the tool, further iterations of the checklist, as well as, expansion to other countries and target groups are planned. Initial feedback from our users supports the assumption that a digital tool can be helpful in navigating the university application process:
Mohammad: “The Checklist is perfect and so easy to use. “
Asmaa: “The infos in the checklist are very easy to understand and informative. It is great for orientation. I found the usability very easy and relaxed. In general, it’s really nice, especially the order of the categories.”
A few of our partners have also had exclusive access to the checklist:
University of Rostock: “The information is very detailed and comprehensive and covers everything that is needed (…). By using [the University Application Checklist], applicants should be motivated to reflect on and plan their future goals from beginning to end.”
Daniel Palm, uni-assist: “The idea of a tool such as this one is helpful and its implementation to a large degree great. Especially the idea to motivate the user to research for themselves is very good.”
Kiron’s University Application Checklist is to date the first and only digital tool for German higher education that successfully addresses the challenge of scaling study orientation for refugees. In a responsive user experience, it provides comprehensive, but personalized and accessible information, combined with specific next steps for potential applicants. It increases agency for users to pursue their own educational goals and enables them to take the next steps either on their own or ask for additional support.