Some Colleges Provide Success Coaches for Students: New kind of advisor helps hone life and study skills

Elizabeth F. Farrell


The road to a college degree is often littered with potholes of self-doubt, and sometimes those are deep enough to discourage even the most ambitious students. If the transition from high school to college were easy, the average six-year graduation rate at four-year institutions in the United States would probably be higher than 63 percent. To improve those numbers, colleges and universities across the country have added an array of student-support services, including peer counselors, academic advisers, and tutors. Many institutions have summer programs that bring under-prepared students up to speed academically, and some have wellness centers that offer free massages before exams. Now, as an extension of these services, there is a new coach on campus. This year, Our Lady of the Lake University offered personal coaching services to all of its first-year and transfer students, most of whom are first-generation college students. The coaches motivate and counsel students, many of whom need more than positive reinforcement and time-management tips. Coaches also help some students navigate the public welfare system for sick relatives, or explain to their parents why they should go into debt to complete their degrees. Officials at Our Lady of the Lake hope such personalized coaching will inspire more students to stay enrolled. From the fall semester to the spring semester, 89 percent of freshmen returned to continue their studies, a five-percentage-point increase over the previous year. The rate was even higher, at 93 percent, for students who attended at least seven coaching sessions. In contrast, 69 percent of students who attended only one session came back for the spring semester. But the real test, say university officials, will come this fall. Typically, 38 percent of freshmen at Our Lady of the Lake do not return for their sophomore year, but university officials hope to decrease that rate to 25 percent.


Study Skills, Transfer Students, Summer Programs, Positive Reinforcement, Peer Counseling, Graduation Rate, First Generation College Students, Community Colleges, Higher Education, Faculty Advisers, Tutors, College Freshmen, Student Motivation


The article discusses a piloted grant program that sought to provide first-year and transfer students with an academic success coach. The majority of the students at the college identify as first-generation and ethnic minority.

According to the article, ASC are particularly helpful for students who how a low perceived self-efficacy to succeed academically. Thus, the ASC concentrates on helping a struggling or at-risk student see his/her potential to succeed, to create goals and action plans, and to problem-solve. As other articles about ASC have noted, the philosophy behind the ASC program is a proactive rather than a reactive one.

One college hired independent coaches to assist their students. The rationale behind the decision was that these coaches were “impartial observers.” According to a college administrator, “The coaches are there to help the students connect the dots and find the right services on campus to help them, whether it’s the financial-aid office, mental-health services, or academic support.” For this particular study, the success rate was high. 93% of Freshman who had attended seven or more coaching students returned to continue their studies the next semester. The program has been met with criticism, particularly by faculty. The primary criticism is that the ASC program encourages hand-holding of students rather than providing them the skills to develop as autonomous, independent beings.

The article does not discuss competency-based education, yet it provides evidence that a ASC program might be helpful for retention efforts. It also offers an oppositional argument as to why such programs might not obtain support on some campuses.

APA Citation

Farrell, E. (2007, July 17). Some colleges provide success coaches for students: New kind of advisor helps hone life and study skills. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(46), A25. Retrieved from:

About the Study

Links to Article
Publication Type Website
In Publication The Chronicle of Higher Education
Type of Research Theoretical
Research Design Not applicable
Intervention/Areas of Study Coaching, including academic success coaching, Student support, Tutoring or academic support
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Age groups, Females, males, or other genders, First-year students, Minority status, Other
Peer-Reviewed Unknown
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest 4-year Institution, Private
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest
Student Sample Size 0-99
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