By Dustin Jayroe | Photography by Meredith Mashburn
School is hard, and school on your own is even harder. Do College Better is here to help.
College can be a daunting endeavor for most students to traverse. For new enrollees, eyes are wide amidst freedom never felt before. There are new spaces, fresh faces, hands first shaken and the conception of friendships that will last a lifetime. For most students, this is the first step toward adulthood — the first opportunity to step out from the comfort of a childhood home into the world to experience life on your own.
With that excitement often follows anxieties and apprehensions of what is to come. Questions of how to balance a social life, hobbies, campus activities and schoolwork, while also (probably) being a “broke college student” intensify these anxieties until eventually every possible emotion is felt simultaneously. This amalgam is not singular and is something that most students go through at some point in their academic career, with future aspirations looming ahead of one of the most memorable points in one’s life.
Can you juggle the school/life balance and make it to graduation relatively sane? Absolutely, and if you need a little help with schoolwork along the way, Do College Better has you covered.
Do College Better is an academic assistance program, and it is a product of the Morrison family of Springdale. Parents Beverly and Steve Morrison came up with the idea in 2012, known then as Campus Concierge, and handed it over to their daughter Anna Morrison to take from there. In its first year of operation, Campus Concierge had 10 tutors and served about 50 students. Now, it has taken off to more than 150 tutors and has reached over 3,500 students.
Anna Morrison, now the CEO of Do College Better, is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, where she majored in business administration with a marketing emphasis and minored in economics. A mental construction of a hard work ethic and motivation was ingrained in her early in life, but she never foresaw taking the entrepreneurship route post-college.
“If you had told me in college that I would have started my own business and that business was focused around academics, I would have told you that you were crazy,” Morrison says, jokingly. “I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and have seen the struggles that owning your own business has, [but] this opportunity presented itself and because of the usefulness of what we were able to provide to students, by giving them confidence, helping them succeed, helping them find their purpose — you couldn’t put a price on that experience.”
Initially, Campus Concierge was part of a broader scope of services that the Morrisons wished to provide college students. As the name itself may suggest, this would have included laundry services, grocery delivery and tutoring. However, they realized early on that the interest levels were heavily weighted toward academic services, so they pivoted and began offering that exclusively.
For Morrison, offering college students a service to assist in their academic progress was a personal one, for she had her own college experience to look back on. She knew that the need for a service like this was there. “I was the type of student that tried the hardest but never the one who scored the highest,” she recounts. “I had my own personal struggles with certain classes and truly understand firsthand how defeating it can feel to not pass a class but genuinely try [your] best.”
After a few years of operation, business was good for Campus Concierge. Each year they grew, hiring more tutors and serving more students. Still, Morrison could not help wondering if their name, based on their original plan, might be confusing with their updated, specialized scope. So they sought out help from — who else — college students.
“Last fall, we had the opportunity to work with a marketing class at the University of Arkansas and received valuable feedback that validated our thinking of changing our name to Do College Better,” she says.
Though the name may have changed, the service and passion for the mission stayed the same, and that is part of what sets Do College Better apart, according to Morrison.
“It remains one of our top priorities that when a student walks through our doors, they immediately feel valued,” she says. “A lot of the time, the students that come to us are getting their first taste of failure, and it causes a lot of self-doubt in their chosen career paths. We create a space of no judgment and truly strive to meet the needs of each and every student. Those needs differ with each student, and we take an individualized approach by meeting the student where they are and catering our program to their needs.”
This ideology of treating every student as an individual is evident in the variety of services that Do College Better offers.
Their tutoring services include three options: private one-on-one sessions for students who prefer individualized attention; small group sessions for students who learn best by being able to share ideas with their peers; and large group sessions in which more than five students can work together on studying for an exam — usually mid-terms or finals.
Tutors for Do College Better are held to the utmost standards to ensure the students who utilize their services are getting the best assistance possible. Prospective tutors must be current students or recent graduates with at least an overall 3.5 GPA, must have taken the course they will be tutoring within the past two years and must possess a positive attitude with strong interpersonal skills.
Do College Better also offers membership plans for students, including discounted tutoring rates, personalized study plans, study workshops and parent reporting. MCAT and ACT preparation services are also available.
This flexibility allows them to adapt to fit the needs of the student, rather than the other way around. Some may need help recovering a passing grade; others may simply require some help with an important essay. No matter the need, Anna and her team want to help. They believe that every student can achieve academic success.
The emergence of Do College Better has not only had a positive impact on the academics of the students they serve, but also the livelihood of their student tutors and the local economy of Northwest Arkansas. The growth of the past five years means that more than 150 students have been given the opportunity of a well-paying job with Morrison and her team. “In return, those students are spending that money in our town,” Morrison says. “It gives me great pride to know we are a small factor in supporting the local ecosystem.”
Morrison knows how fortunate she is to have a team full of active and engaged associates, especially in such a crucial field of work. She utilizes a lead-from-the-front mentality and works persistently to provide her employees with the best work environment possible. “As the owner, I always strive to serve in every area of the business,” Morrison says. “There is no job that my ‘title’ is too high-ranking to do. That encompasses anything from cleaning the toilets to running the payroll. I am fortunate enough to have an incredible staff that continues to exceed my expectations on a daily basis.” Morrison also notes that she has learned the necessity of leading with compassion and empathy, “by taking care of the people who take care of the business. I try my absolute best to listen, relate and connect with my team.”
Others are taking note of Morrison’s hard work, dedication and success: In 2015, she was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the Arkansas District by the United States Small Business Administration. She was also selected for Arkansas Business’ “20 in their 20s” list, and Do College Better was an Arkansas Business of the Year finalist in 2017.
As for the future of Do College Better, Morrison hopes to have the opportunity to expand their range to more college campuses. Aside from that, no bar is too high. “Every year I am always surprised with our growth and the simple fact that more and more students are benefiting from our services,” Morrison says. “There is no ceiling to my hopes and dreams for Do College Better, and I look forward to the things we will continue to accomplish.”