Farmville and Scholarships: Financial Aid Through Facebook

Facebook is a pretty pervasive topic these days, and most of the commentary centers on things like security, narcissism and time wasting. Not many people think of the social network as a useful tool, but a recent development might change that. You may love or hate Facebook apps like Farmville and Mafia Wars, but are you ready for an app that can help you get scholarships and grants? Schools offering Finance degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

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Admit it. Do you spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook, meticulously updating your profile and making sure you're representing yourself exactly how you want? Even if you don't visit the site regularly, chances are that you have a profile, and while you were creating it, you probably put some time and thought into how you'll fill in the blanks. It can all seem a bit useless and self-indulgent, even if you've managed to get some good out of your membership in the network, like reconnecting with an old friend or making a business contact.

But thanks to a new app that's in development, those personal details on your profile might lead to more than a cursory glance from a new 'friend.' This app, conceptualized by a recent University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) graduate, uses details from your Facebook profile to come up with a list of financial aid opportunities that apply to you. These can include scholarships for persons of a specific race or gender, or grants for individuals living in a certain location, for example. Other assistance will be provided by the app, including information about how to correctly fill out financial aid forms like the FAFSA.

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As you may already have guessed, the real utility of this app will depend on the accuracy and breadth of the information on your profile. If you don't have accurate information about your age, race, gender, geographical location and other details, it won't really work properly. This may be a deterrent for some Facebook users who are wary of getting too personal on a social network that's been publicly criticized for not doing enough to protect user privacy.

Still, though the as-yet-unnamed app is still in development, it has a pretty impressive pedigree that might assuage some fears about how safe it is to use. Devin Valencia, the UNLV grad who came up with the idea, was selected as the winner of the 'Get Schooled Challenge.' This contest is the result of a collaboration between the Clinton Global Initiative, the College Board and MTV, with additional assistance from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And yes, we are talking about that (President) Clinton and that Bill Gates.

The 'Get Schooled Challenge' was a contest that asked current and future college students to come up with an idea that would use technology to make it easier to get financial aid. The winner, Ms. Valencia, received a $10,000 prize for her idea. The Gates Foundation, MTV and the College Board are currently developing the app with a budget of $100,000.

If this article has made you reconsider the information you put on your Facebook page, you might want to think about the proper etiquette for social networks.

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