Mytonomy Marries Technology and Advice for Students
by Nicole Gorny | Syracuse University
When an “Internet guy and an educator” who have been friends since fifth grade team up, thousands of students reap the benefits.
Mytonomy is a social network that facilitates near-peer mentoring on topics like colleges, majors and careers. Launched in April 2011, the free site features more than 1,800 short videos – organized by topic and question – that connect advice givers with advice seekers, said co-founder and “Internet guy” Vinay Bhargava.
“What we found after launching this site,” Bhargava said, “is that there is a real thirst for better information about colleges and careers.”
Mytonomy – a play on the word “autonomy” – primarily serves students between the ages of 14 and 25. Video topics are varied and include students’ advice on the college application process, opinions on dorm life or sports culture at specific colleges and explanations of why students choose to pursue particular majors.
Most of the contributors are college students, especially because the site has spread through high schools’ alumni networks.
For example, Ami Patel, a 2012 graduate of the College of William and Mary, uploaded several videos at the encouragement of a college counselor at her Virginia alma mater, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. The counselor, Sean Burke, is a co-founder of Mytonomy.
While the site launched after Patel enrolled in college, she said Mytonomy is a valuable asset to a high school student. In part, this is because Mytonomy’s reliance on student voices makes the site reliable.
“The beauty of Mytonomy is its ability to honestly convey opinions of young people who are simply trying to relay their knowledge and experiences to their peers,” she said. “Each person is bound to have his or her own opinion, but the information that each person provides is genuine.”
Because Mytonomy uses personal video testimonies, it lacks the element of anonymity found on similar sites like College Prowler or College Confidential, said Cullen Kenney. Kenney, a University of South Carolina senior, uploaded a video on the football atmosphere at USC after a friend told him about the site.
Anonymity at similar sites often leads to inaccurate information and negative or unhelpful comments, co-founder Bhargava said.
“Video is a hurdle that filters out a lot of troublemakers,” he said. “We have the least amount of content, but I would argue that we have the highest quality content.”
Mytonomy already has one of the web’s largest collections of video content on STEM majors, he said.
But while Mytonomy’s strength lies in a community of college contributors, Bhargava said he aspires to build professional content, as well. The site already includes a video from Facebook product manager Ambar Pansari, a former Navy SEAL officer and Google employee, and an architect, among others.
With professional content, Bhargava said, a young user can easily see every step of a career path, from the classes required in college to advice on getting an internship to a description of the actual job.
A new version of Mytonomy, scheduled to launch this summer, will also make this easier, Bhargava said. The new version will have more social media features, allowing users to follow specific contributors. This, in turn, will easily show a contributor’s progress toward a desired career.
Chinmay Patwardhan, a Duke University sophomore who provided feedback as part of a focus group early in Mytonomy’s development, said he would recommend the site to a high school student.
Patwardhan said he thought Mytonomy would have influenced his decisions about his college and major if it had been fully developed when he was in high school.
Said Patwardhan: “It has a lot of valuable information about each of the schools I applied to that I didn’t know when applying.”Nicole Gorny is a NGJ College Reporter and a freshman newspaper and online journalism and Spanish double major at Syracuse University. She also spends much of her time working on campus publications, including the Daily Orange and 360 Degrees.