By Anna Nickerson, Babson College Class of ‘22
Moira McCullough is the founder of College Scoops, a free platform with premium content to make families’ college trips easier. As a mother of three, she personally experienced the countless hours of touring and exploring college campuses and their surrounding communities. She strongly believes that students have to find the right fit, but it’s not just about academics. Students should take other important things into consideration like social life, the off-campus area, and even the weather! Moira wants to share her “inside scoops” with students and parents to make their lives’ a little easier, and perhaps even sweeter! Gap Year Solutions had the opportunity to speak with Moira recently. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.
Gap Year Solutions: Tell us a little bit more about your background and how you founded College Scoops.
Moira McCullough: When I first got out of school, I was in strategic sales working with large accounts. My husband and I made a bet to see who could get a job offer overseas first! My husband got an offer in London first, followed by me, so we spent five years in London and then three years in Paris. During that time, I had three kids and took some time off from work to raise them. I like to say I was promoted to mom! At heart, I am a foodie and love to travel, meet different people, and learn about new cultures. It was a wonderful time to do all of those things.
When I took my kids on their first college visits, I realized it was a disaster. We were learning about the academic fit, but weren’t able to see if the school would be the right fit for all other aspects of life (community, social life, food & entertainment, etc.). I went home and treated it like my job to figure out – I reached out to friends and family with different school affiliations and put together itineraries for various college visits.
I founded College Scoops out of a passion to help parents and students find the right colleges for them. I want to help students determine that best fit in all aspects of their lives.
GYS: How are you growing your business?
MM: I started College Scoops two years ago and since then, we’ve grown significantly. We are a free platform acting as a 3rd party independent resource for students and parents as they navigate the college admissions process. We constantly share relevant content in a thoughtful and engaging way. We think you should be able to get a better feel for the fit of a school without paying a tremendous amount of money, whether or not you’re visiting campus. Finding the right school is both an art and a science. All the quantitative data is the “science,” but we fit in as the “art” – helping students choose a school that’s right for them for more reasons than just academic fit. We’re experiencing significant growth as we find new ways to host content. We have college guides, blog posts, e-books, podcasts, videos and more interactive platforms that we are constantly updating and pivoting due to COVID.
GYS: How are you dealing with COVID and how have you pivoted?
MM: We’ve embraced it. We thought, “What could we possibly talk about in terms of college visits in light of COVID?” We decided to bring our community to the home and launched tons of videos within a few weeks in March and April. Now that you can’t travel, student testimonials are even more important for students and their families, so we’ve been growing that type of content rapidly. They want to know what makes the school special and we’re providing that content. In addition to this, we are sticking to our monthly newsletter and all our other resources available on the website.
GYS: How has the landscape changed since students cannot get onto campus?
MM: As a parent of a senior in high school, I am my own customer. I’ve had the difficult discussion with my son about making decisions in a time like this and I have tried to convey the message that students must be very thoughtful, even more so now. As a result of COVID, I have seen more students saying that they want to be closer to home, take a gap year, or even go to a large public/state school (where they otherwise wouldn’t) for undergrad and then go onto a graduate program within a few years. It is a different time now, but our goal still remains to give students all the information and recommendations so that they can make an informed decision regarding their college selection process.
GYS: Can you tell us more about your Student Ambassadors? How do you get ambassadors and what do they do?
MM: We have over 1,000 Student Ambassadors – they are there to share their personal experiences with their colleges or universities. They talk about why their school rocks, what they wish they knew going into freshman year, and share their insights on social/non-academic life, among other things. Student Ambassadors fill out a short form about their college experience, which is helpful for us to share with prospective applicants. It’s all about providing students with information from the source – current students! One of our goals is to have at least one lead ambassador on every campus, which I think is doable. I also think it’s important that none of our students have been paid for this – it’s not branded or sponsored content. It’s genuine, authentic feedback that enables students to provide their insights and give back. We also have six ambassadors who have joined me as interns to help with social media, outreach, and other important things, which has been a huge help!
GYS: What advice do you have for students navigating the college admissions process this year, considering all the uncertainty?
MM: Take a deep breath! Listen with curiosity, and to parents – listen to your student. We’ve taught our kids to advocate for themselves and to have confidence taking risks. But suddenly in the college admissions process, the parents take over. It is a stressful time for families, but sometimes we parents need to take a step back and trust our son or daughter. I also think you need to have fun! I have had more fun with my kids during the college admissions and touring process than anywhere else. It’s your last couple of years together before they leave the nest, and you want to enjoy those moments.