Francine Whyte plans to transfer to a four-year college after she earns her associate degree from Capital Community College this spring, so she really appreciated the transfer deadline reminders the GradGuru app texted to her phone. With classes nearly all online, the Bloomfield resident says, she doesn’t see the usual posters in elevators and on bulletin boards announcing events, deadlines and services.
“If we were on campus, someone would remind us, but now we have to find out for ourselves,” she says. When she received text notifications through the GradGuru app, she marked them in her journal. “There’s one event happening today at 2, a virtual event. It’s going to tell us about how to keep going with the pandemic going on,” says Whyte, 20. She was planning on attending, adding that she wouldn’t have known about it if not for the text message.
After one semester with the GradGuru app, students and staff appreciate the tool and say it’s been especially helpful since the pandemic moved fall classes online. Thanks to its funders, Achieve Hartford, as part of its College Persistence partnership with Capital, paid for one year of the GradGuru app for all Capital students as a pilot program. GradGuru texts students about deadlines for a host of tasks, such as registering for and dropping classes and filing the FAFSA; and notifies them about upcoming events and services available to them. Students who download the app get a chance to win a $100 gift card, and when students use the app to do things like check in with their advisor, make an education plan and keep a 3.5 average, they earn badges and gift cards.
A survey of students who sought the services of the Academic Success Center showed that 10 percent of students who accessed the Center during the fall 2020 semester learned about it through GradGuru, says Marie Basche, director. She called it a “godsend.”
“This certainly could have been beneficial two years ago. The fact that it happened when it did was just the perfect time,” Basche says. “Right now, especially, it’s really critical to have this extra form of communication that’s in real time.”
Capital’s students, who range in age from 18 to 80, have busy lives, with children, jobs and responsibilities, she says. The app helps keep students connected to the college.
Tara Sanford is new to Capital this January, where she’s taking a math course that she needs to apply to a nursing program. A Maryland resident, she is also attending college there while raising five children between 7 and 14 years old, and she and her husband plan to move their family to Connecticut when he gets transferred to the U.S. Naval submarine base in Groton. She used the GradGuru app to find a host of resources such as COVID-19 testing sites, Veterans Affairs offices and childcare providers, she says.
Even though she’s well organized, she appreciates the reminders and a section on the app called “tips.”
“You can see everything from the library hours to citing a paper to reminders to send back your book if you’re renting it,” Sanford says. “I liked the little tidbit reminders about things that a lot of new students may not think about.”