AdmitSee - Free Access


Democratizing college applications



2016 / product designer / Responsive Web

How do we give free access to high school users, while combating potential system abuse & ensuring our content is properly valued?   


Prior to my joining AdmitSee, our subscription model was based around multi-tiered monthly plans starting at $20 a month, with no free plan or trial period. Users had no easy way to try our product for free, and that can be a hindrance when your target market is comprised of high schoolers and their parents.

I worked with a team of 4 (2 devs, a graphic designer and a PM) over a period of two months to implement free user access. 

  • Conducted user interviews to assess validity of free access issue

  • Constructed a student and parent persona to capture behavior/needs

  • Built user flows with an emphasis on edge cases of free access abuse

  • Designed the mechanism behind free access interactions

  • Prototyped & tested access gate interaction on InVision with users

  • Designed free access gate UI as well as dashboard implementations

10 months since we launched the initial free access ability, we've seen our user growth increase by 96% 



Who are we designing for?  


One of the first things I did after joining AdmitSee was to go through our user feedback surveys and note what users wanted to see or improve about the site. As seen below, cost was a frequent concern amongst our users - primarily that our product was too expensive.

Our high school persona Ben was utilized to humanize who we were designing for - 1st/2nd generation college applicants who don't have access to the resources and data that kids who are well-off do. 

Ben, our high school persona




What are the constraints? 

My founders and PM were on board with the idea of free user access, but they were hesitant about the extent of the feature. After all, we still needed to make money. Some of the constraints/goals the design solution had to fulfill include:

  • Free access has to be limited, either in content or time

  • We should funnel users to converting into a paid plan, either by access limitations or using design

  • Have to take possible abuse of free usage into consideration

  • The design should entice users to engage in other actions such as sharing about AdmitSee on social media

  • Should be simple enough for high schoolers and their parents to understand/complexity must be masked by good design

After getting buy-in from my founders and the team, I conducted a design sprint to get input from everyone: business, marketing and engineering. 


Final user flow




The interaction solution has to address the following:

  • Should command the users attention enough for them to take note, but be easily dismissible

  • There needs to be context for the user - keys are scarce and we want to avoid having users accidentally unlock a profile

  • Needs to be responsive

  • An explanation of the benefits of upgrading and a clear path to upgrade should be presented to the user


What states should the solution cover? 

  • Free user empty state - Show that you have no keys remaining, plus a prompt to upgrade or purchase the profile itself.

  • Free user - If a user has multiple keys, show how many keys are left along with a confirmation screen to prevent accidental unlocks. If no more keys are left, turns into Free user empty state.

  • Paid user - If the user has a premium plan, show how many keys they have in total, along with unlock confirmation screen.







Users were utilizing free access at a rate higher than even we estimated. Because of that, two months in we decided to change the free key refresh period from once a week to once a month, in order to ensure fair payout to our college students. Another thing we decided to change was removing the unlock confirmation screen for premium users. Since their keys weren't scarce, having that confirmation screen there served to muddle the unlocking experience, especially for power users who were accessing multiple profiles a session.

In the 10 months since we launched the free access ability, we've seen our user growth increase by 96 percent compared to the previous two years. 

Best of all, we're able to provide value to all of our users. Even if you never purchase a plan, a free user is still able to unlock up to 14 profiles a year. That can go long way towards helping somebody build a great college application, and this is something I’m extremely proud of. 


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