Wizard has the answers on colleges

Published 9:52 pm Friday, May 8, 2009

Heading off to college involves a number of important — and often hard — decisions.

Where to go?

What major to choose?

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What to do after graduation?

Virginia’s Community College System wants to help ease that decision-making process.

In March, the system launched the Web site, www.VaWizard.org.

“It brings together a wealth of current data that helps Virginians make good decisions about their post-secondary education,” said Craig Herndon, director of career and educational resources for the Virginia Community College System.

For example, students using the Virginia Education Wizard can take an interest assessment, which can help pinpoint a career path that matches the student’s personal interests.

From there, the Wizard can direct the student to the right major at a community college, help find financial aid options, identify transfer pathways to a four-year university or college (if necessary) and assist in applying for admission.

On top of scholastic planning, the Wizard can take a selected career path and show the median income in that profession and show the expected demand for the career within the next five years, as well as the top 10 employers of that occupation.

“We did an extensive testing of the Wizard before we went live,” Herndon said. “We were really impressed with the responses – It was overwhelmingly positive.”

Since its launch less than two months ago, the site has seen close to 60,000 unique visitors, with more than 10,000 students setting up personal profiles on the site.

To help bring more students’ attention to the site, the VCCS is holding a special sweepstakes through the summer to give students a chance at getting some tuition money, just for visiting.

“We have heard resoundingly that the Wizard is a valuable new tool as students plan their future,” said Dr. Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges in a press release. “We believe that these scholarships and other rewards will attract even more users to the site, where they can get all the information they need to make smart choices – right at their fingertips.”

Two students will win $2,500 scholarships for the fall of 2009 simply by setting up a profile on the Wizard Web site.

“We wanted to be able to get the word out to folks that the wizard exists,” Herndon said. “Also, our point is community college is a great way to pursue post-secondary education. There’s no better way to support that than put some money to back it up. We thought this would be the best way we could get folks to get the on the site.”

Students interested in participating should visit the Web site and set up their profile, which, Herndon said, will be a benefit by itself.

“The chance at a free scholarship is fantastic, but they’re not going to lose out by using the site to explore their career interests.”

For more information, visit www.VaWizard.org.