Know Your Students. Each One.

“Know Your Students. Each One.” This is our motto at GradSnapp, but it also could have been the theme of the first Scholarship America Partner Summit, which we were proud to sponsor this month in Washington DC. The event brought together great minds around the challenges facing higher education today and what we’ve learned about how to best support the needs of all students.

Speakers emphasized the importance of understanding each student’s unique experience and grounding our support for them in robust data to help ensure that their college experience concludes with a diploma in hand.

Did you know that more than one-third of university students have experienced housing insecurity in the past year? In her summit keynote, Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab and a professor at Temple University, shared findings from the largest national survey assessing the basic needs security of university students. The report indicates that nine percent of students had been homeless in the last year, while 36 percent were housing insecure (indicating the inability to pay rent or utilities, the need to move frequently, or similar challenges). Additionally, 36 percent of university students had experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days.

Without proper nutrition and a place to sleep, it’s unsurprising that poor academic performance would follow. But if this poor performance is all we see, we’re apt to address only the symptoms and not the causes. When these issues are brought to light, we’re empowered to intervene at the right time to address the root of the problem.

Many students have different responsibilities than a traditional college freshman. In their panel on “The Current State of Higher Education,” Dr. Martha Kanter, who serves as executive director of the College Promise Campaign and senior fellow at New York University’s Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy, and Secretary John B. King Jr., former US Secretary of Education and president & CEO, The Education Trust, discussed the unique challenges of adults entering or returning to college.

These challenges include the responsibilities and financial demands of parenthood, Dr. Kanter and Secretary King underscored, and the importance of understanding this full picture of a student if we want to see them succeed.

Through long-term engagement, college success programs are seeing positive returns from a focus on the “whole student.” With this support model, success programs like Genentech’s Futurelab program and Travelers EDGE are building long-term relationships with their students, from K-12 through college graduation; College Possible achieves this support through its near-peer support model. This engagement equips their programs with a wealth of information to provide coaching, mentoring, and tailored support beyond scholarship dollars.

As Bob Ballard, Scholarship America’s CEO, noted in his closing remarks, “We know students today require a broader range of supports, and it’s our responsibility to create them.”

Dell Scholars understands this need all too clearly.  From the early stages of the program, we knew the key to success was a nuanced understanding of each and every student, so we could know when to intervene for greatest impact. This is the origin story of GradSnapp, a comprehensive student management system – created for practitioners, by practitioners.