Mentor Labs
My Role
During college, I worked at Mentor Labs (startup) as a product designer, envisioning and designing experiences for high school students applying to college. Over the course of my tenure, I helped to envision and design 3 of Mentor Labs’ features: A scholarship and summer program database (V1), a college application task calendar (V2), and an extracurricular tracker (V3).
July 2021 to March 2022
The first two versions
Mentor Labs mission was to solve information inequity and help guide people in making better life decisions, starting with college admissions. User research revealed that a majority of high school students felt lost when applying to college, saying there’s no existing resource that centralizes opportunities and information. In order to solve this problem, I helped Mentor Labs design and develop features that would help recommend personalized college resources to high school students. However, our product strategy over time became too complex, so we decided to revisit the overall product.
Customer discovery research,
300 students
The Problem
Understanding College Application Struggles
Our CEO and I sat down to reconsider Mentor Lab's goals. In a whiteboard session, we brainstormed research methods to get student opinion. I conducted a contextual inquiry by reaching out to high school students to understand their college admission struggles. We held office hours for high school students to talk about their applications and extracurriculars, and this ended up being extremely successful because high school students were looking for credible testimony from students who had been in their shoes before.
Because so much of the office hours were focused on discussing extracurriculars, it confirmed a couple of hunches. We realized that as universities were pivoting to more test-optional policies, extracurriculars became more important on students' applications. The pandemic also made online opportunity search more critical. Traditional school prep resources didn't have the infrastructure for extracurriculars, so we realized we had an opportunity to help students manage their extracurriculars online.
Journey Mapping
Credibility from Those who came before
High school students often pursue extracurriculars due to testimony from other people who have done it before, especially if they’re wondering if it will help them apply to college. This was the main theme our team used in trying to design our product. I first mapped out how a high school student would approach an extracurricular for the first time, using competitive math as an example, since it was a common extracurricular.
Expert Guides
We found through our office hours that if students had confirmation that their extracurriculars were worth while, they’ll be more likely to keep doing it. In my designs, I worked with curriculum writers and subject matter experts to design guides to different extracurricular topics, starting with stories from experts who had done these topics as students previously. This would allow prospective students to trust the curriculum because they were written by former participants of the specific extracurricular.
I wanted our students to feel as if their progress contributed toward extracurricular mastery. On top of extracurricular guides, I designed our feature so that completing these guides helped students earn points. These points would then contribute to different levels, which would help indicate to students whether their extracurricular activity could contribute to their college applications.
These guides were extremely popular within our student Discord group. Mentor Labs launched this feature out to the public in May of 2022 and is currently being used by students all over the world.
Mentor Labs was acquired in August of 2022! For me, part of the impact that Mission: Mentor brought to kids wasn’t just from the product but the people working on it. Our team had made an impression just by connecting with high school students and offering our perspective. In turn, this helped us to really understand what high school students are actually looking for when applying to college and set us up to design and create a successful product.