Student Coaching: A Proven Approach to Increasing Student and University Success

Tim Goral's picture

Think back to when you were in college. Did you know why you were there? Did you make the most of the opportunity? College students do well when they have a strong sense of clarity about what they want from their college experience. Also, when students see college completion as an essential part of achieving their long-term goals, they develop intrinsic motivation that can help them persist and overcome obstacles. That is why the first priority in student coaching is to guide students in defining a long-term vision.

After students define a clear vision for their college experience, a coach works with them to develop a clear plan for achieving their goals. Coaches help students connect the dots between their day-to-day activities and where they want to be in the future. They help them improve life skills - like time management, prioritization and budgeting - that are required for their success in school and beyond. They also create accountability and positive reinforcement by celebrating the small wins that students accomplish along the way.

This process is energizing. It helps students understand that everything they do towards their life goals is meaningful, important, and worthwhile. It is inspiring for them to connect with someone who knows who they are, who cares about them, and is supports the effort they’re making to succeed in college.

During regularly scheduled meetings, coaches methodically assess how the student is doing in all of the key areas that are responsible for their success or failure. Academics is only one of these areas. In fact, research shows that the majority of students are academically capable of success, and that they fail for other reasons. Most often, unforeseen obstacles related to work, family and finances – or a lack of connection with the school - lead students to ”take a break.” And once they’ve decided to take a break, the chance that they will ever finish is very low.

Student coaching has its roots in student engagement research developed by leading authorities, including Sanford, Rendon, Astin, Tinto, Gardner, and Kuh. This foundation, combined with specific research conducted by coaching services providers and over a decade of practices involving millions of students has resulted in a student success intervention with substantial proven benefit.

As noted Stanford researcher, Dr. Eric Bettinger, concluded in his 2011 report “The Effects of Student Coaching in College: An Evaluation of a Randomized Experiment in Student Mentoring,” one-on-one, executive-style coaching increases college completion rates and does so more cost-effectively than other potential options, such as increased financial aid. He points out that student coaching consistently generates 10 to 15 percent increases in retention and graduation rates. Other benefits found in similar studies include greater student satisfaction, higher grade point averages and increased engagement with university resources.

Many of the nation’s leading universities use student coaching to enhance the student experience and drive better student outcomes. In many cases, the cost is fully offset by the increased tuition revenue generated by reducing attrition. Though, some universities justify the investment simply as the right thing to do in support of their mission and/or as a competitive edge in attracting and retaining great students.

Whatever the motivation, student coaching provides a proven way to increasing student and university success.

—Kai Drekmeier is president of InsideTrack

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