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Bolstering Student Success Through Personalized Well-Being Tools

By James Larcus, MA, NBC-HWC

The guiding principle of our work at YOU at College is that to effectively drive student success, retention, and resilience, we must comprehensively support well-being through tools that personalize to each individual’s unique needs. A recent Gallup-Lumina State of Higher Education Report showed 71% of undergraduate students considering dropping out, with the top three reasons being: 1) emotional stress; 2) fallout from the pandemic; and 3) cost of pursuing education versus the value of their degree. What this shows is that a student’s success during college is impacted by a number of factors, all of which are unique to the individual and relate to one’s overall well-being.

In recent years our team has worked to develop a solution suite that supports a full continuum of campus care, addressing everything from upstream, early-intervention support, to social skill-building, to crisis triage. Our roots, however, are in finding meaningful ways to prioritize student persistence and resilience by spurring self-awareness, offering new perspectives, harnessing growth mindsets, and helping students find their purpose through our YOU platform. The backbone of how we do this is through connecting students to a range of interactive, personalized content. This strategic approach to content focuses on helping students get advice, take action, and access all existing campus resources to create the conditions for students to not only get by, but to thrive.  

From a strategic standpoint, tackling everything from mental and physical health, to purpose and meaning, to academics and career success, requires more than “seeing what sticks” in terms of content. Our content strategy must truly take on a comprehensive lens, evaluating everything from what is working well, to what content areas need improvement, as well as well-being areas students and campus partners are endorsing needing to emphasize. By marrying our content strategy with our content evaluation, we stay on top of content trends for our campus partners, fill any gaps we see in the kinds of content we’re delivering, and adequately meet the needs of the students in our network. For example, the YOU platform creates space for students to submit requests for priority areas they’d like help in. When we received a student request for tools to cope with climate anxiety, we were able to act swiftly by reviewing the request, creating new content around the topic, and begin serving it to students nationwide to build a stronger content ecosystem for our network.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, our content strategy has shifted to helping students learn, do, and connect by turning well-being information into action. This approach, driven by our proprietary mental model, has not only created awareness around student  well-being, but it has also empowered them to create a meaningful path to personal growth. In the past year, the YOU platform has seen nearly 67,000 card views, with almost 45,000 well-being content priority areas (ex. Academics, Finances & Basic Needs, Fitness & Nutrition, and Mindfulness & Balance) endorsed by students, and approximately 27,000 self-checks (proprietary well-being assessments across our content domains) completed. We’ve also seen students shift from accessing content related to acute crises like burnout and stress at the onset of the pandemic, to more action-based content related to creating healthy habits and recognizing strengths in recent terms. What this shows is, given the opportunity, college students will look for ways to be proactive and harness successful habits during their time in school.

We know that the desire for adequate mental health and well-being support is only increasing in higher education. A 2021 survey of the YOU student network found that 98.7% of students strongly or very strongly agreed that expanding mental health services should be a campus priority. Students arguably now, more than ever, understand how valuable mental health is to their overall success in school, and that resources are only valuable if it is relevant to their specific needs. Our shift to helping students turn well-being information into action has seen positive results in our network. A 2022 Spring Impact Report showed:

  • 69% of students found content relevant to their identities on YOU
  • 87% of students who learned a tip or skill on YOU practiced it
  • 80% of students who found a campus resources on YOU took action with it

Through student-campus collaboration, innovative design, and a comprehensive content strategy, we hope to continue building out effective pathways to connecting students with the tools they need to harness success and thrive during school.

mental health
student support
well-being content
well-being tools