Choose a Photo, Find a Job: ASU develops app to guide students through major and career choices

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Choosing a major or career path can be one of the most difficult choices to make in your teenage years. Maybe you’re still in high school. Maybe you’re already attending a university. Either way, how do you find the answer to this question: What do you want to do with your life? It’s a question you’ve likely heard a million times by now, and each time you’re asked can be more frustrating when you’re unsure of the answer.

To make major and career discovery easier, ASU developed me3, a free quiz that also seeks to engage students by inviting them to select pictures of career interests, kind of like a Buzzfeed quiz to determine your future.

Initially limited to the web when it launched in 2015, me3 was released as a smartphone app in Apple’s App Store and Google Play last year.

“It is available to anybody. It is free. It’s a fun way to launch your exploration,” says Mary Dawes, ASU’s director of major and career exploration. “Many people say, ‘I don’t know how to decide this. How do I pick?’ So, it’s just one way to start thinking about who you are and your interests.”

Upon signing up for the tool, you are given 60 pairs of images relating to different subjects. After making your selections, you are given three career choices. If you’re not interested in a particular path, you can eliminate it and a replacement will be generated. From your options, you can select the careers that interest you and pair them with related majors.

“It takes you through that career exploration process in a real positive, simple way to get you started down that path, and it’s a lifelong path,” Dawes says.

The quiz integrates research and a Euclidian distance matching algorithm, and pairs images with components of the long-used RIASEC model – realistic/doers, investigative/thinkers, artistic/creators, social/helpers, enterprising/persuaders and conventional/organizers. Each image applies to a certain component, and upon selection, scores are generated and compared with data from the U.S. Department of Labor to find the best recommendations for the user.

While me3 was originally constructed to help high school students make sure they’re on the right path to college, its popularity eventually saw the introduction of service to include current students who may desire to change, or even still find, their major.

“It really was aimed just to start that exploration,” says Lisa Flesher, director at EdPlus at ASU. “At the beginning, we said, ‘How can this replace those dinner table conversations for students who have, let’s say, parents that never went to college?’ So we wanted those tools just to be that exploration; that fun way to have discussions around what they could do post-high school. Lots of other people became interested, like college students, and so we had to revamp and make a lot of modifications for the tools for various users besides just the high school students.”

As such, the app’s dashboard has varying features for its different users. High school students can view their GPA, toggle courses and complete their Education and Career Action Plan (ECAP). Current college students can view credits, course plans, and potential future jobs and their median salaries. There is also a nine-question course game that allows users to select among different courses and search features to find specific careers or majors, among other informative information and features for current or future students and even parents and teachers.

“Because we have a couple different audiences for me3, the experience after they play and pair the game differs a little bit,” Flesher explains.

Throughout its existence, me3 has accumulated over 120,000 users, according to Flesher, and ASU has big plans to expand it. The school is looking into more marketing and outreach, and it may also be expanded to other languages.

Alana Ramirez, a freshman and global health major at ASU, used the tool in high school through ASU’s Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program. While she went in a different path than me3 suggested, she sees the merit in the idea.

“I definitely like the overall concept of it and how easy it was to pick between the photos,” Ramirez says. “Picking between photos is a lot better than going through and answering a 100-question survey about yourself and what you want to do, so that made it easier, just like, the visual aspect of it. And then you’re kind of able to get through it faster and not lose focus as much.”

For more information or to take the quiz, visit https://yourfuture.asu.edu/me3.

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