5 Ways Student Success Coaches Help Learners Achieve More
Enrolling in college is like starting an adventure through a strange, new land. Students might have a map and someone might point out a good path, but ultimately, they have to find their own way. At least, that’s how it used to be.
Working professionals and adult students are more likely to face persistence challenges than younger students. Those students age 24 and older were more than twice as likely to withdraw from school or take a leave of absence during the recent pandemic. With overall retention rates at a historically low 66.2% in 2021, students are clearly facing significant challenges.
Today, more colleges and universities are bringing in student success coaches to walk alongside learners. These helpful guides show students how to navigate the new world of higher education. They help students navigate potential pitfalls, advise them on path options, connect them with resources and tools to reach desired destinations, and help them recognize and celebrate the many achievements along the way. Part cheerleader, part advocate, and part resource coordinator, Success Coaches play an important role, or rather many important roles, during a student’s academic journey.
Success Coaches vs. Academic Advisors
Now, you might be thinking, our academic advisors can do that. And, maybe they could with a bit of training and a whole new approach.
Make no mistake, academic advisors have a specific and valuable set of skills and also play an important role. They tend to be analytical and process-oriented. So they can plot an efficient course through the terrain, but if you stumble across a sinkhole, you’re often on your own.
Success coaches are like a local guide. They are there to help students navigate the sinkhole and then point out the hotel with the best food in town.
Expanding the academic advisor job description to include life coaching and support isn’t fair to students or advisors. We’re talking about two different skill sets here. Even if you retrain your academic advisors, you’re asking them to do two completely different jobs. Keeping these roles separate gives the students maximum support while letting both advisors and coaches do what they’re best at.
5 Ways Student Success Coaches Help Students
1. Building a Personal Connection
It’s easier to stick with something if you know someone cares. Some days going to work is a drag, but you don’t want to leave your team short-handed. Showing up for an 8 a.m. soccer game on a Saturday may not be your idea of fun, but you do it because your kid is counting on you.
In the same way, the relationships with students that success coaches build help students to keep showing up. They know someone cares and wants to see them succeed. Coaches act as a built-in support system.
2. Connect Students To People and Resources
Generally, admissions is the part where students have a single point of contact, their admissions advisor, who can help them answer almost any question that arises. Once accepted, new students are often simply dumped into a vast ocean of resources that can be difficult to navigate. When they need help, should they ask the financial aid office, their professor, a friend?
With a student success coach, students have one person who can help them answer all their questions. Either the coach will know the answer, or they can connect the student to someone who does. They can even coordinate across departments to set up a call. Take for example, an incoming college freshman with no knowledge of the proper on-campus personnel or the different departments available on campus. The student may have several questions related to financial aid, academics, or career services. Rather than having the student strenuously search and individually identify and reach out to several faculty members for answers, a single point of contact provides a “white glove” experience saving the student valuable time and the headache the comes with dealing with multiple points of contact.
3. Equip Students with The Essentials
Sometimes an opportunity to vent is all students really need. Success coaches can offer a listening ear. When students need a little more than empathy, success coaches can also equip them with essential tools to meet the challenges of the journey toward completion.
These days, more students are entering college from the workforce after some time away from school. Their study skills may be rusty and they might need time management skills to balance work and school with their personal life.
And then there’s the question of mental health. According to the 2021 Online College Students Report, mental health counseling was among the top 10 most requested services for online college students. From providing coping skills when stressors arise to connecting students with trained mental health professionals, a success coach can help students access the resources and support they need to deal with the many challenges that come up during their time in school.
4. Spot Risks Before they Turn Into Problems
What happens if a student hasn’t logged in for a while? What if their grades start to slip? What if they’re facing a major life event like sickness, the loss of a loved one, or a change in employment?
Instructors might notice there’s a problem, but may not have the tools or time to get involved. Academic advisors probably won’t understand the scope of the issue until final grades come in. By then it may be too late.
Coaches take a proactive and more holistic approach. They pay attention to attendance and check in with students before a slump in attendance turns into a failing grade. Measuring each student’s behavior against success benchmarks, they know when a student is at risk of losing their way, and can step in with a text or a call.
Because they’re checking in with students regularly, coaches are more likely to hear about personal, family, and employment challenges that could otherwise derail students. Working with the student, they set up incremental plans that can navigate detours and bumps in the road.
5. Set and Work Toward Goals
Earning a degree or certificate is a big goal. It can feel distant, especially for students who are in the first months of a two or four year program. Coaches work with students to set milestone goals that help them make the most of their journey so they can reach their destination while appreciating the many smaller accomplishments along the way.
Coaches also help students set career and personal goals, and help them understand how their goals build to a plan for academic success. By celebrating progress and offering support, they help students thrive.
The Broad Impact of Success Coaches
Student success coaches don’t just help the specific students assigned to their care. They also help notify the institution of patterns and pitfalls. If they’re hearing the same concerns from multiple students across their portfolio, they can share those concerns with the program or institution and help them find ways to make things better.
At EDDY, we’ve seen the impact that student success coaches can have. Coaches play a critical role in us achieving our mission of helping students recognize new opportunities through education. Contact us today to learn how we can help support your students to meet their goals.