Marcia Layton Turner
Tulane University

Typically, when students hear they have been recommended for an academic support program it is viewed as punitive. Their attitude toward participating is shaped by the sense that they have done something wrong.

For that reason, previous efforts at Tulane University to assist students with academic challenges “proved to be difficult and ineffective,” says Michele Oelking, director of the Academic Success Center. Still, the need for a program to aid students in achieving academic, personal and career goals—particularly students with ADHD—was evident.

To that end, Tulane initiated a new program in early 2012 that took a different approach. Students are matched with a personal coach who has received professional training and credentials through the International Coach Federation. They meet at least five times during the semester to work on plans to achieve their goals—discussing anything from study strategies to stress to time management.

“A lot of times, students recognize that they need to improve their performance in a particular area,” says Oelking, a professional certified coach herself. So the coaches design a personalized program for the student drawing on campus resources.

Perhaps because families today recognize the benefits of personal coaching, the reaction to the Success Coaching program has been extremely positive. “Students see the value in it,” says Oelking.

Students can apply for help or “nominate” classmates for coaching through a form on the Tulane website. “Success Coaching has a positive connotation—students are excited to interact with a coach and often refer coaching to their peers,” says Oelking.

This change in attitude is due in part to the language used in the coaching program. Coaches start with a focus on students’ strengths, rather than fixating on weaknesses, says Oelking.

And the results have been positive. In post-coaching surveys, students report improved academic performance, an improved emotional state and improved self-efficacy.

The program’s success is also evident in its numbers. In 2012, 31 students participated in the pilot. Between then and fall 2015, 1,196 students received success coaching.

Into the future

The goal is to expand the coaching program to meet the needs of 10 percent of Tulane’s undergraduate population of 8,339—from freshmen transitioning into college to seniors preparing for life post-graduation. The current capacity is 3 percent.

Want more information on this success program? Email to request a complete copy of the institution’s entry form.