As first-year students at the University of Virginia last spring, Pragya Chaturvedi and Charlotte Tsang could see the future.
Chaturvedi, a native of India who grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Tsang, who is from Gainesville, Virginia, recognized the COVID-related challenges that new students would be facing the following academic year on college campuses around the country.
They believed the effects of educational disruption, combined with the lack of physical resources – such as campus tours, orientations and community-building activities – would challenge new students’ physical and mental well-being, and could, in turn, heighten their anxieties about adjusting to a new college environment.
So last March Chaturvedi and Tsang founded CampusHQ, a podcast that is now part of a wide-ranging digital platform that supports both high school seniors and college students through resources, community and mentorship.
Chaturvedi and Tsang consider CampusHQ a “hub for authentic college advice” – one that addresses the social, academic and career concerns of students.
“We try and inspire students to create the college experience they want,” Chaturvedi said.
CampusHQ is a free online community that provides unfiltered advice from current students at more than 100 colleges and universities through various forms of digital media.
“By partnering with high schools, we host online webinars and writing workshops that provide counselors with a fresh perspective they desperately need,” Tsang said. “Our goal is to meet the individualized needs of all students while shaping the college experiences of the next generation.”
Currently, close to 50,000 high school and college students per month use CampusHQ’s free resources. This includes access to the podcast, a newsletter, a forum, a blog, engagements and even some one-on-one support.
In the podcast, Chaturvedi and Tsang try and discuss topics that are sometimes difficult to find online, such as mental health resources.
“From relieving the anxieties of students to helping them adjust to virtual learning during COVID-19, we love seeing the positive impact we are making,” Tsang said.
One of the hallmarks of the podcast – which can be found on Apple, Google and Spotify – is the “8 Voices” series, which features guest speakers from a wide variety of colleges, majors and backgrounds. The goal is to show how college can be used an opportunity to elevate personal goals.
In one episode, Da Kim, a second-year UVA nursing student, discussed her educational journey.
“As an Asian American, she has had to deal with a lot of pressure from society to become an engineer, doctor or lawyer,” Tsang said, “but she found the courage to pursue her own dreams instead of everyone else’s.
“We discuss how Da came to terms with her identity by being involved in cultural organizations. Her inspirational journey and future ambitions will show you how you can also pursue your own passions.”
Another episode featured Dylin Taylor, a sophomore at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
“She talks about what it’s like to develop genuine relationships with incredibly talented people at her school,” Chaturvedi said. “You’ll learn so much about networking, about the link between passion and your career, and what it takes to overcome comparison and criticism in college. You’ll also discover how she gathers inspiration wherever she goes to fuel her incredible masterpieces.”
Recently, CampusHQ started a series called “Questions, Answered,” which welcomes first-years onto the podcast for an honest and open dialogue.
CampusHQ has also created a series on its Instagram Account called “CollegeIRL” which uses video to examine the daily lives of college students – including ones who are staying home this semester – to show what college is really like during the pandemic.
Right now, Campus HQ’s goal is to expand its networking with high school counselors and college advisers to help seniors during their college admissions process and onward. They also hope to continue improving their resources for the next set of incoming students, while bringing current students in the community closer together.
Ultimately, Chaturvedi and Tsang say they want CampusHQ to become the go-to digital brand as it pertains to receiving “authentic” college advice.
“We think it is so necessary to bring difficult topics and conversations out in the open,” Chaturvedi said, “and want to inspire others to be comfortable doing so as well.”