We investigate 1) the rate at which refined properties of the empirical risk---in particular, gradients---converge to their population counterparts in standard non-convex learning tasks, and 2) the consequences of this convergence for optimization. Our analysis follows the tradition of norm-based capacity control. We propose vector-valued Rademacher complexities as a simple, composable, and user-friendly tool to derive dimension-free uniform convergence bounds for gradients in non-convex learning problems. As an application of our techniques, we give a new analysis of batch gradient descent methods for non-convex generalized linear models and non-convex robust regression, showing how to use any algorithm that finds approximate stationary points to obtain optimal sample complexity, even when dimension is high or possibly infinite and multiple passes over the dataset are allowed. Moving to non-smooth models we show----in contrast to the smooth case---that even for a single ReLU it is not possible to obtain dimension-independent convergence rates for gradients in the worst case. On the positive side, it is still possible to obtain dimension-independent rates under a new type of distributional assumption.