A new way to connect with like-minded students

Penn students reimagine relationships with a virtual platform called Magic Connects.

computer rendering of two people working on at a computer

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about our lives and how we connect with one another. As we continue with social distancing, we are all trying to figure out new and innovative ways to safely maintain, enhance, and build connections. Magic Connects is a new platform developed by a team of five Penn students who specifically designed it to connect with other students with similar interests.

College students under quarantine are missing the opportunity to see one another in classrooms, chat about their daily lives, get a fresh cup of coffee, or help one another with their homework. Magic Connects gives students a new way to engage and find new people who share their values, according to Penn senior and founder Vraj Shroff.

“Magic is a community of driven students looking to make meaningful and long-lasting connections,” says Shroff, who is a senior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “It is the go-to place to find people with similar values, interests, and future aspirations. Magic connects like-minded and passionate students from various intersections, so people can build real connections.”

Senior Anne Chen, majoring in digital media design in Penn Engineering, is working with Shroff on the platform.

“I’m especially excited to work on the dating aspect of this platform,” Chen says. “The identity verification process makes meetups safe, and the matching process ensures that we meet people who appreciate our personality rather than appearance.”

Shroff says the idea for the platform came from the difficulties students are facing in making connections during the pandemic, whether on a professional basis, to find new friends, or meet a perfect match for dating.

He talks to Penn Today about the new “values-led” platform to meet driven students.

What is Magic Connects and how does it work?

Magic Connects is a platform that helps us bring a part of normalcy back to our life. Remember running into your friends on Locust Walk, getting food at Wawa after that midnight deadline, or making new friends in recitations? Magic brings all of that back; it finds people from various intersections of your communities and matches them with you. The best part is Magic is very simple: you create a profile and you can start matching with other like-minded students right away.

With so many platforms out there, for various types of connections, such as LinkedIn for professionals, social media platforms for casual posting, and the many dating apps, what makes Magic Connects different from all the rest?

This platform was specifically designed to avoid the holy trinity of LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Tinder. Through Magic Connects, students get a limited set of matches each day; they get to learn more about these people’s educational backgrounds, interests, internships, future plans, favorite TV shows, and many other things. Only one picture is displayed at the end of each profile. Magic is fundamentally about meeting driven students and making meaningful connections rather than split-second swiping. After a match, we periodically nudge people to stay in touch by suggesting news articles of common interests among other things. Again, we want students to build long-lasting relationships with people they like.

How can professors, clubs, and fraternities/sororities take advantage of Magic Connects?

They play an integral role in connecting students. A class or club brings people together who care about a certain topic or have a lot in common. They can use this platform to help students meet each other in their class or organization. They can ask their students to add identifiers to their profile, like ‘Class of 2021,’ ‘Wharton Healthcare Club,’ ‘CIS 121,’ ‘Alpha Delta Pi,’ etc. Now, the platform will try to match people with similar identifiers, while ensuring they are a good match for each other with a lot of similar values. Our goal is to partner up with 80,000 student organizations and 4,000 professors from 415 universities across the U.S. by [the end of] this semester. We hope to see Penn leading the way in connecting students.

Why did you decide to create Magic Connects?

There was always an unmet need for making meaningful connections. Most apps out there just don’t solve this issue. Tinder is known for making friends for a day, LinkedIn is often used just to get a referral, and Snapchat is often just pictures of your friends’ food. Can you meet your new best friend on LinkedIn? Sure, I just don’t know anyone who has. We wanted to create a place where students can meet other students doing amazing work, things both are passionate about. COVID made this need much clearer and Magic is here to solve that.

How does the team handle security and privacy issues?

Data students provide is strictly used to match them with other students and nothing else. Students are always in control of what they would like to show on their profile. On the security side, only current students can sign up for this platform; they are verified using their school email. Students can also report inappropriate users to us, so Magic keeps harboring a respectful community.

How can Magic Connects support student goals?

Hundreds of students were invited to provide feedback and feature recommendations for this platform. Magic really is a platform of the students, by the students, for the students. Let’s take me, for example. I am pursuing an economics major, interested in working at big tech companies, love Adam Grant, and am passionate about health care. For the first time, I can find someone at Penn who shares all or most of these interests. In fact, not just at Penn, students can match with other students from 415 U.S. universities that we are planning to partner with. I think that’s just fascinating. The goal here is not to look for one’s exact replica, but to find other passionate people who care about similar things. We are sure students will find this platform very useful to build professional connections, make new friends, and/or find their next date.

How can students sign up?

We are planning to launch Magic Connects at the end of this month. However, students can pre-register by filling out their email at our website: https://magicconnects.com. They can reach out to me at vshroff@sas.upenn.edu if they have any questions or suggestions.