Bringing the best and brightest together in one virtual classroom

We partnered with NYAS to revitalize The Junior Academy and enroll 250 top students from around the world.


Reviving an educational program from the 1950's

The Global STEM Alliance (GSA) is an initiative from the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) dedicated to creating STEM programing that teaches children and young adults the critical skills necessary for 21st century careers. As part of this mission, the GSA revived The Junior Academy – a successful program for gifted teens from the 1950’s – to cater to a new digital generation.

How do we find highly qualified students during summer vacation, convince them to apply for a new program, and keep their attention long enough to complete a complicated application process?

Finding the brightest students in the world

We looked to other GSA STEM programs to find what motivated students to join, then tested several messaging themes to determine the best way to convey our value proposition.

Our audience was most receptive to messaging centered around building experience for college transcripts and rousing the competitive nature of top students and their parents.

Designing a digital campus

As the face of a purely digital program, the website needed to inspire students in the same way a beautiful university campus does. In order to convey that this is a place to aspire towards, we created a cutting edge look and feel with animations and illustrations, while conveying the history and prestige of NYAS, and the opportunity to be amongst the best students in the world.

“Do your extracurriculars stand out?”
Most effective line with international students
Key targeted influencers on Twitter

Generating Awareness

Based on the insights, we subdivided the audience into six demographically unique cohorts, and ran a multitude of image and copy variations to identify the most effective creative. Our dedicated media team narrowed down the campaigns to several social media audiences with the highest number of qualified applicants per dollar spent.

Tracking everything, learning fast and iterating quickly

We pored over user behavior data from every step in the application funnel to identify bottlenecks and opportunities to move candidates through the process. Iterations started almost immediately after the site launched and lead to significant increases in conversions.

Savable application without login

To remedy applicants abandoning long-form questions, we added new features such as auto-save and no-login unique URL applications.

Using emails for encouragement

We offset user drop-off with an automated campaign that triggered encouraging emails based on where they were in the application process.

Making more accessible for users

Common user queries were turned into new FAQ’s paired with email announcements to help address application hurdles.


Students from around the world

Over 3 months of the project, we drove 51,000 visits to the site, acquired over 2,000 student applications – 4x higher than our KPI goal. This resulted in 250 exceptional students from 61 countries becoming members of The Junior Academy 2015 class.

Since the success of our first engagement, we’ve worked closely with the GSA to extend The Junior Academy’s web presence and support the launch and operation of other STEM education programs.

+2000 Student applications
+61 Countries represented
1 Horizon Interactive Award
2 Communicator Awards

We had high standards for student recruiting and a short deadline

Division Of/ developed and executed a recruitment strategy that exceeded all expectations. Some of the brightest students in the world enrolled in our program and continue to work to solve the world’s greatest challenges.

Celina Morgan-Standard SVP, Digital Learning Solutions