Everyone loves an overnight success story. They’re fun to read and easy to tell. The only problem is, they’re rarely ever true. Most meaningful accomplishments are the result of years of hard work and persistence. They aren’t stories with a flashy reveal, but rather stories of ordinary dedication and incremental improvement that build to a lasting impact. They may not get picked up by Hollywood, but these stories hold tremendous value for the rest of us because they are stories we can actually learn from. Telling them well is critical.   

Seven years ago, nine colleges set out on an unassuming journey that turned into one of these stories. They bet big on the belief that in order to move the needle on student success, they needed to redesign their entire institutions around student completion. After seven years of work, they asked us to tell their story. 

One by one, we started talking with the people involved. From the advisors, to the faculty, to the college presidents, to the students, we learned about what their journey had entailed. We heard about the early vision, the rough starts, and the uncertain progress. We learned about what had worked and what hadn’t; what had been hard and what been even harder. We dug through their of data and saw their impact taking shape across thousands of students.   

What follows is their story. It is a success story, to be sure, but not one of the overnight variety. These people are in it for the long haul. You may learn from their experience, and if you’re part of an institution that shares a similar vision, find tangible ways to be part of the next chapter.  

Read the Completion by Design report here.