A star athlete with every college at his fingertips, Dominick Ferraro’s life changed due to a devastating injury. Now, using his own experiences, he created College Select to help those with the increasingly difficult process of finding and applying to colleges and getting scholarships.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dominick Ferraro had a tumultuous childhood.
By age six, Ferraro and his brother were put into the care of his grandmother and an aunt. At the age of 10, his grandmother tragically passed away, and Ferraro and his brother went to live with another aunt and uncle.
In high school, he distinguished himself as not only a good student, but an incredibly gifted athlete—excelling at football, baseball, basketball and track. By his senior year, Ferraro had colleges begging him to enroll and play football—a boon to a kid who might not otherwise make it to college.
However, an injury during a football game soon left him with a broken ankle.
“I just remember trying to stand and falling back down,” Ferraro remembers. “At that moment I cried—not because of the pain, but because I knew it was all over when my quarterback said ‘Stay still, and do not look down.’”
Even after surgery, Ferraro was unable to play at the level he used to, and after graduating high school, he began hopping from place to place, and attending technical school for computer science.
In April 2001, with his own background as inspiration, Ferraro’s life turned around. He met his wife, reconnected with his father, graduated from college and eventually started working in IT. But he always remembered the struggles he went through simply to get into college and get an education.
“My biggest problem was not having that guidance at school or that supporting cast at home,” he says. Struggling through the college admissions process is difficult for any student, but without support it was even harder.
But it was during this time that Ferraro developed an idea—an idea that could transform the process of finding financial aid and selecting a college, and make college enrollment an easier and more streamlined process.
At the age of 25, Ferraro started College Select.
The goal was to be an easy to use, comprehensive solution for every student and family in the college application process. From taking a student’s interests and matching them with the right schools to guiding parents through finding financial aid and FAFSA, College Select takes a frustrating and often expensive step and makes it easier.
“I was giving parents advice on completing the FAFSA application for financial aid and this continued for the next couple of years,” he says. “Now we have provided mom and dad with that ownership and the system does a lot of the work.”
According to Ferraro, a lot of parents tend to take the first option that comes through the door and end up going into a lot of needless debt in addition to limiting their searches to only local schools and missing out on potential scholarships.
“When you reach out to those seven or eight local schools you miss the other 7,489,” he says. In addition, most college students don’t get everything that is available to them, due to either not knowing the potential or frustration in dealing with a very confusing system. Yet with College Select, it’s as easy as a mouse click to send out an application to every college that fits selected preferences—in addition to locating every scholarship a student is qualified for.
“Seventy-one percent of the country is in some sort of student loan debt,” Ferraro notes. However, College Select averages “over $20,000 a year in scholarships.” That financial benefit alone is enough to make investors take a second look.
Unsurprisingly, that’s exactly what happened. College Select’s success caught the attention of Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley Advisors. This April, Ferraro will be a presenting CEO at their sixth annual ASU-GSV Summit, which honors innovators across every sector including education. College Select itself is being touted as “driving scaled innovation in the Knowledge Economy landscape.”
With the success that College Select has had thus far, Ferraro’s next steps are to start getting it incorporated into more and more schools in the state.
“The end-all goal is to have every student in high school to be on the system,” said Dominick, “I would eventually like to see this as a mandated process around the country.”