Fullstack Engineer #2 at ScholarMe
About the role
The biggest problem in Gen Z finance is paying for college
Education is both the most powerful and least accessible tool for social mobility that exists in the US. Many students are locked out of this opportunity due to a lack of understanding of how to get the funding they need to pay their bill.
Navigating the maze of scammy scholarships, archaic federal aid applications, and opaque student loan options to piece together a bill for tens of thousands of dollars can be easily the hardest thing that 18-22 year-olds have done in their lives thus far.
Oftentimes, students won't even apply to their dream school because they don't think they can afford it, even if it is actually possible.
Students need someone on their side to help them find the path to paying for college while avoiding drowning in debt.
That's us. Path will put a financial advisor in the pocket of every Gen Z student.
Today, your advisor builds you a step by step plan to get your college bill covered. In the future, your advisor will help you build credit, get your first auto loan, choose which bank to work with, get a mortgage, and answer any financial question you'll ever have, for life.
So that's where we're headed — a future where no student in America has to worry about how they're going to finance ~~college~~ anything ever again. They simply ask their advisor and follow their path*.*
The story so far
(We're undergoing a rebrand, the current site is here)
We attended YC in the summer of 2019 under a different name, ScholarMe, with a website that helped students apply for scholarships, FAFSA, and loans, all in one place. We got some initial traction and raised 2.7mm from investors like Paul Graham, Mark Murphy (Former Delaware Secretary of Education), GSV Ventures (A leading education fund) and 20+ others.
We spent the next year and a half building more tools, including a "Sneaker-drops" app for scholarships amongst other ideas. Our biggest problem? We struggled to retain students and definitely didn't have Product/market fit.
After lots of brainstorming and user interviewing, it became clear that students didn't need more tools, they needed advice for how to get their whole bill paid, and a guiding hand to get them there (which ironically requires now using the tools we built in the past).
We launched a test where we paired students with a 1 on 1 advisor who built them a step-by-step plan to pay for college — demand immediately exploded. The product felt as if it was being pulled out of us by parents and students who relentlessly emailed us with either feature requests, or asks of what they had to do to get access to the service.
Since the start of this test in February of 2021, we've grown this advisor service from zero to hundreds of customers, 1 → 4 advisors, and are totally focused on doing everything we can to keep up with the current demand.
Susan, Operations — Likes: Precision. When asked how's she's feeling out of 10, will reply with 3 decimal places, every time. "It's a 3.156 / 10 for me". BA, MBA, Smartserve™️ Certified.
Brit, our Head of Business Development / Head of Student Success / Head of Parental Supervision. We just call him Dad. Previously ran a scholarship marketplace.
Jay, Financial Aid Counselor (and actual dad). Takes zoom calls from his pear garden. Dislikes: tourists stealing his pears (It's a real problem!). Prev: Director of Admissions at Kaplan University; 15+ years in higher education
Femi, CEO — Sneakerhead, Dropout, DJ, Go Kart enthusiast, 5k monitor collector. Always ready to throw hands in a boxing ring.
Evan, CTO — Productivity nut. Dropped out and built a scholarship marketplace which competed directly with Brit's company. Unrelated: Brit's sworn enemy.
Vikram, Fullstack Engineer and resident animal whisper. He adopted a Raccoon, Randal, who is now our internal mascot. Graduated, somehow.
Things we care about
Obsession with helping students — We strongly feel that the closer we are to our students, the better our product and company will be.
Any time we ask ourselves what we should build next, the first question that comes to mind is: "What's best for our students?"
Doing what's right — At any point in time, we must always stand for what we feel is truly the right thing to do for our students.
College financing is a space where students are often exploited. Their data is sold for a profit, they're overcharged for services that should be cheap or free, and they desperately need someone who has their back. That's us.
Relentless Resourcefulness — It's essential to find clever ways around obstacles.
We have the article that coined this phrase framed in our office.
When we first tried to get partner integrations on the site, Femi Ubered to a potential partner's office unannounced, talked his way past their security guard, then walked out with a contract. True story! We celebrate acts of heroism like these.
Self-care — Taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for your work and and for others. When you can be your best self, that's when you can create your best work.
We have a performance coach and team therapist that everyone has unlimited access to book sessions with. Keeping everyone's relationships with themselves and others healthy is paramount to us.
How we work
We're 100% distributed and plan to stay that way. We use Slack and Zoom for everything from communication to social events and parties. We'll likely open up an in-person office in NYC for those to want to attend, but it'll be more of a bunker that's used when needed than a mandatory place to be.
We host an offsite every quarter where we get the whole company together in person (covid permitting). Our next one will either be Napa valley or a castle somewhere.
Emphasis on done, not hours worked
We don't count hours or ask you to be in your chair from 9-5. As long as you attend meetings and get your work done, that's what matters to us.
We all work hard, an oftentimes surpass 40 hours a week, as we are very much an early stage startup. We're all ambitious and set tough goals, and hitting them often requires lots of work.
While we commonly work weekends, we see prolonged periods of time with high amounts of weekend work often as a sign that something in the system is broken, and that we need to invest in tooling to decrease our workload to something more sustainable.
So, what will you do as a Fullstack Engineer at Path?
- Work closely with our designer to implement and polish complex designs, pixel for pixel, quickly
- Write scripts to automate painful manual work away from our students
- Lead projects and ship entire features that will have a massive impact on the business, all with a high degree of autonomy
- Build REST APIs with Django
- Build tooling to speed up your own/teammates workflows
- Talk with users regularly to validate your ideas, ship what students want, propose iterations, and rinse + repeat.
- Build small one-off prototypes for testing and validating ideas with users before integrating the winners into production
- Have a strong hand in picking the technologies we use for projects
This might be for you if:
- You see code as not only a craft, but as a means to make users happy
- You care deeply about helping us find product-market fit, and are comfortable doing whatever it takes to do so
- You can tow the line between moving fast and breaking things, and moving slowly to get things right the first time, when relationships with our partnerships are on the line
- You are comfortable with the inherent risk of joining a seed stage startup
Our upcoming/active technical challenges:
- Building a recommendation engine to help our advisors quickly build plans for students
- Scale our web automation scripts and infra to 100x current scale
- Rebuilding our whole frontend in react (as we commence our rebrand from ScholarMe to Path)
How to Apply
Apply directly through work at a startup!
What's the stack?
- The web app uses Django and React with Postgres, on AWS.
Is it okay if I don't know the stack?
Are you open to dev shops or contractors?
- Not at this time unfortunately.
Is remote ok?
- We offer a health insurance package and will discuss any other benefits that are important to you (everyone at the company has a unique package!)
PS — If this doesn't have any spelling or grammar mistakes, we've shipped too late! (Though please do let us know if it does: evan at usepath dot com)
Why you should join ScholarMe
ScholarMe is building the Common App for college financing. We want to build a future where students can fill out a single application, and we can get 100% of their tuition bill paid for them.
We believe that students should only have to worry about getting into college, not paying for it. Our mission is for students to fill out the ScholarMe application, click submit, then let out a sigh of relief knowing their bill will get covered. We have a long way to go, but we believe that vision is simply the way that things should be.
The first version of our product allowed students to apply for FAFSA (government aid), student loans/ISAs, and scholarships, all without answering a question twice. We want to double down on this over the next year by adding every single potential source of aid in the US over the next year, which will take some serious work.