Supporting charter alumni: It takes a village

The transition from high school to college is an exhilarating and exciting time, but also daunting and bit scary for most students.  This is no different for first-generation college students, but often these students don’t have parents or other family members to help them navigate the transition and help them settle into that first college semester.

Trust is key

Working with our charter school partners, we often hear stories of newly minted high school graduates and new college students relying heavily on their favorite high school teachers or counselors for support.   Why go to them and not the alumni advisor you recently met whose focus it is to help support you in college?   The short answer is: trust.  Like most us, students rely on the people that they have strong relationships with and trust.  Charter school staff built trusting relationships to improve student success, and it is imperative that they leverage those relationships as students enter college.   It may take time for the alumni advisor to build trust and rapport with their college attending alumni, so we don’t want to lose the opportunity to leverage the relationships students have with their favorite high school teachers or college advisors.

Here’s a common scenario: The first semester has been rough for Susan and she can’t wait until the holiday break to be home and back to a familiar environment.   During the break, she goes back to her old high school for a visit and runs into one of her favorite teachers.   Her teacher is glad to see her and asks how everything is going at college.   Susan shares that classes and campus life have been a bit overwhelming and she’s very homesick.   She has struggled in some of her classes and is nervous she may fail one.  Her teacher shared how this is common and provided some practical tips, but most importantly, the words of encouragement Susan needed to hear.  For Susan, it was invaluable to have someone she trusts and respects be there for her to lean on.  Her teacher also encouraged her to reach out to the alumni advising team for additional support.

Our motto is to know your students – each one. Having a comprehensive student management system is core to developing and enhancing your alumni support model.

Connecting the dots

In many cases the story ends there.  Susan may or may reach out to the alumni team and her teacher may not have a formal way of notifying the alumni team about her conversation with Susan.  It’s important for the alumni advisor to be aware of Susan’s situation, and also know about the relationship with her favorite high school teacher.

Connecting the dots between the student, teacher and alumni advisor is critical in leveraging the student and teacher relationship as the alumni program supports the student to college graduation.  There are many more examples where multiple individuals, the “village,” can work collectively to create a strong support network for student success.  GradSnapp  tracks these relationships and helps your alumni team leverage each student’s support network as a key part of your retention strategy.   Three key features include:

  • Comprehensive student profiles: You can provide teachers, counselors, and university partners access to student profiles where they can directly record their interactions with each student.
  • Tasks: After the teacher documents the latest student interaction, she can also create a task and assign it to the alumni team to follow-up with the student. The alumni team is notified of the task via email and the task will be added to their open task queue in the system
  • Contacts: Alumni advisers can store the contact info of all the individuals supporting a student for quick reference and leverage those relationships as part of their support strategy

With broader access to critical student information, charter schools can leverage each student’s “collective village” to drive persistence and college graduation rates.