Here's a troubling statistic: For roughly every 500 students in public schools in the U.S., there's just one school guidance counselor.

That means one guidance counselor could be responsible for helping 500 juniors and seniors develop and perfect their college applications.

Assuming that any of these students need extra help - and of course, many will - that school counselor will quickly see his or her availability stretched to the max. It's just impossible for one person to give every student the dedicated time and attention they deserve.

That's not to mention the other barrier to students getting the help they need: School counselors are only available during school hours. For most students, this means that finding a time to sit down with their school counselor is inconvenient at best, and impossible at worst.

For entrepreneur EJ Carrion, the need was clear. Students needed a better way to access the mentorship and guidance that is so important to helping them get into, and through, college.

The typical model, with students meeting their guidance counselors in person, during school hours, wasn't cutting it. So Carrion came up with a new model, one that utilizes the flexibility of technology instead of relying on matching schedules and creating appointments.

The result is Student Success Agency (SSA), a mobile mentoring company that offers students college and career guidance anywhere, at any time, from their cell phones.

How does Student Success Agency's mobile mentoring work?

SSA has grown quickly by first partnering with schools that serve rural and/or low-income students, in areas where it can be really difficult for kids to have access to the kind of mentors they need - college graduates who've successfully completed the same journey these kids are just starting.

SSA has mentoring programs with schools in Hawaii, Appalachia, and the plateaus of New Mexico, just to name a few. Many of these schools are remote, or in low-resource areas.

SSA then matches students with near-peer mentors called Agents. They vet and hire every Agent to ensure that they're a good fit for the students SSA serves. Once the Agents are matched they build a mentoring relationship with their students through texting and phone calls. There's no in-person contact - everything is done online and through smartphones.

By flipping the traditional counselor office model in this way, and supporting students through their devices and around their schedules, SSA is making it easy for students to get the focused, one-on-one attention that can help them get into and graduate from college.

One of the many reasons I love this company (with whom we're currently partnering) is that they haven't changed the essential service that's being delivered - kids have always needed mentors, and that's exactly what they're giving them.

What they've changed is the way this service is being delivered. Carrion has brought mentoring into the 21st century by incorporating the technology that each of us carries around in our pockets or backpacks every day.

SSA Secret #1: It's all about convenience

Some of the greatest companies have created massive change in their industries by understanding one simple truth: that real opportunity lies in making a traditional service more convenient.

Uber and Lyft drivers use the same roads as taxis and take the same amount of time to get where they're going. We watch movies from Hulu and Netflix on the same TV we used when we were watching video store rentals.  

In both of these situations, what changed is how these services are delivered - the convenience factor.

This focus on convenience can transform industries of all kinds. As Carrion says, "There is an abundance of opportunity for entrepreneurs to impact the most deeply-rooted industries in our economy like healthcare, financial services, and education by reshuffling these structures to be more convenient."

SSA Secret #2: To reach younger generations, you have to meet them where they are

So how can SSA tell whether they're succeeding in meeting their students' needs? Like any great company in the digital age, SSA keeps a watchful eye on its analytics.

Those analytics have been extremely positive, too. Here's a comparison:

According to the American School Counselor Association, the average student gets only 38 minutes of advising time with their school counselor - per year.

SSA students, on the other hand, are getting 38 minutes of advising time per month. That's because the company is offering these kids on-demand support where they are - on their phones.

This is just one illustration of why entrepreneurs who want to successfully connect with the next generation must be observant of how young consumers prefer to receive information, services, and products.

For Student Success Agency, that meant identifying the limitations that students had during the short hours of the school day to visit with their counselor, and providing a more convenient approach. That's what has made all the difference - not just for the company, but for the thousands of students they help every day.


For more on merging the analog and digital worlds, read my post "Blending the Old and the New: What Businesses Can Learn from This Digital Truth."

Published on: Nov 16, 2017