First in the World

  • FITW Project Summary

    FITW Project Summary

    Over four years, the Pullias Center will implement the college application game in schools across California through a Web-based platform. The role-playing game, along with an extensive student-centered social media campaign and support materials for teachers and counselors, offers schools […]
  • Launching the Mission Admission Challenge

    Launching the Mission Admission Challenge

    We share an overview of activities conducted and lessons learned from the first two years of the grant. Our intent is to provide readers with insights into the process of conceptualizing and implementing a large-scale practitioner-oriented research project.  

Researching Games & College Access – The First in the World Grant

Did you know that many students who are qualified for college ultimately slip through the cracks when it’s time to apply? Here at the Pullias Center for Higher Education, college access is important to us, and we’re on a mission to help students prepare for and apply to college and financial aid opportunities.

We believe in meeting students where they’re at, so we’ve been exploring ways to use games and social media to increase college access, particularly for students who will be the first in their family to attend college. Over the past few years, our center has teamed up with USC’s Game Innovation Lab to design a series of games about preparing for and applying to college. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot. We know that playing Mission: Admission, a game about the process of applying to college, increases students’ college knowledge when they play at least two times. But does it actually make a difference with whether a student will apply to college? We want to find out.

With First in the World grant funding from the U.S. department of Education’s Fund for the Innovation of Postsecondary Education, we are investigating whether playing Mission: Admission can actually increase the percentage of students who go to college. Over the next three years, we’re collaborating with MTV’s Get Schooled foundation to run a challenge in high schools across the state of California. In the first year, juniors at participating schools will play the game, compete for prizes, and—we hope—engage in a school-wide discourse around preparing for and applying to college. We’ll run the challenge again when those students are seniors, keeping track of data on FAFSA applications, college plans, and where students ultimately apply and enroll. And of course, we’ll share and publish what we’re learning along the way.

The contents of this website were developed under grant # P116F140097 from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

Want to know more?

Play Mission: Admission on Facebook
Read some reports about our past research.
Contact us.



Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education is a unit within the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education. It’s First in the World (FITW) program provides grants to spur the development of innovations that improve educational outcomes, makes college more affordable for students and families, and develops an evidence base of effective practices. The Pullias center was awarded a FITW grant in fall 2014.



The California Student Aid Commission’s (CSAC) provides financial aid policy analysis and leadership, in partnership with California’s colleges, universities, financial institutions, and financial aid associations.


MTV Get Schooled Foundation capitalizes on the media and messengers of popular culture to inspire and motivate teens on their educational journey through high school and into higher education.

futurebound logo

Futurebound Inc. creates engaging educational games to prepare middle and high school students to apply to, enter, and find success in postsecondary programs.


Evaluation Team


Augenblick, Palaich and Associates Consulting (APA) use of a variety of research techniques to help clients solve problems to meet student performance goals and improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of the nation’s public schools.