College Prestige, but at What Cost?
Many students are compelled to strive for high-ranking and highly selective schools simply because of their prestige and name. However, high-ranking schools may not offer the proper mental health resources for students on campus leading to a discrepancy in regards to students' success in college. We believe that the mental health of students attending these colleges should be more important than college rankings. How colleges support students' mental well-being has a big impact on students' academic performance, wellbeing, and retention on campus.
So...What is The Mental Health Initiative?
Prospective college students often base their college search on the reputation of the school, desired programs, career outcomes, etc. Students often don't consider the mental health resources offered on campus when applying to college. Mental health affects 73% of students during their time in college, leading to lower GPAs, higher dropout rates, and feelings of hopelessness. The Mental Health Initiative is determined to change the way students pursue their college search, making it easy for one to find data on their school's resources and student wellness in seconds.
How we built it
For the backend systems, we built our own API, used Algolia Search API and python to host a Flask application that serves as an API for the college mental health data and passes data to the front end.
The front end of our application was created in Flutter, an open-source UI software development kit, and Bootstrap. We implemented the application into a widget so it can be integrated into college ranking sites such as US News to be accessed by students across the world.
Challenges we ran into
Most of us did not have experience in Flutter or creating an API. Our lack of knowledge in Flutter caused the frontend team to create both a Flutter and Swift application to see which framework would work the best for our application putting an extensive delay in the development processes. It was hard to start the implementation of our project with the sheer lack of knowledge in these technologies beforehand.
Our Storyline: "Uhhh, do any of y'all know how to do this (silence)" → "Grrrr! (*slams head against palm")" → "I created the API!" → "What's is Santa Clara University's planned investment into mental health resources?" → "How do you make a search bar in Flutter?" → "How do we serve the API?" → "*Googles: Flask CrashCourse...stares at the documentation in defeat" → "Guys we finished the backend!" → "Flutter is causing too many difficulties should we switch to Swift?" → "6 hours later...making progress on a Swift and Flutter application (bad idea lol)" → "12pm: frontend looking rough" → "Decided to pursue just the Flutter application" → "We got the API and front end connected!" → "Many more hours later: polishing application, ready to create presentation and Devpost" → "Finally...done"
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud to have built an impactful application that helps bring awareness to the rising issue of mental health, especially in college students. We gave power back to students to be able to see mental health statistics that are not advertised by colleges. In just 24 hours we mastered new skills, created a deployable application, and grew together as a team.
What we learned
We all quickly picked up Flutter, 'Swift', Python, Flask, APIs, and Web Development. All things which the majority of us had never developed with. Through our determination and in-depth research, we created an application that all of us wish we had during our college search process.
What's next for The Mental Health Initiative
In the future, we hope to add more colleges and statistics allowing more people across the world to be in control of their college search process. We want everyone to be able to have access to this application as it affects students and their futures exponentially, increasing the transparency between students and colleges.