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The Importance of High Touch Intrusive Academic Success Coaching: Making it Work

The EvoLLLution | The Importance of High Touch Intrusive Academic Success Coaching: Making it Work
High-touch, intrusive advising strategies have been proven to be effective for at-risk student populations and could significantly improve persistence and completion across the board if supported adequately.

There are as many types of advising as there are ways to accomplish it. While most advising is reactive, academic success coaching is a more developed and intensive form of advising that focuses on proactive, high-touch intrusive advising techniques. “Good advising is the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience.”[1]

While most universities—and the National Academic Advising Association—recommend intrusive advising methods for first-year or at-risk students, this advising model can be used for all student populations. Intrusive advising involves deliberate intervention to enhance student motivation and using specific strategies to show interest and involvement with students. Intrusive advising is designed to increase the probability of student success, educating students on all options, and approaching students before situations develop.[2]

Academic success coaching is most successful when the advisor/coach assures academic and social integration and positively influences student motivation.[3] In other words, academic success coaching focuses on the holistic student experience. Frequent and relevant contact is required to keep the student on track to maintain retention and persistence. This requires a deep understanding of and partnership with the student to address academic, personal and professional factors.[4]

Intrusive advising can be implemented using a mixture of methods and will depend on the size and composition of an advisor/coach lead base. I have found that weekly touch points with students is effective and allows me to improve retention by proactively identifying when students begin to struggle instead of after there is no longer an option to fix the problem.[5] While some students will reach out to their advisor when concerns or questions arise, the students most at risk are those that will not. This tends to be true for first-year and re-entry students who either don’t understand the process and procedures of the success coaching team or are unwilling to admit that they are struggling. Intrusive advising recognizes that students, particularly those at risk, will not seek guidance. Instead, the advising is brought to the student through a variety of activities, such as advising in the classroom through the use of classroom visits, use of early alert systems for students in academic jeopardy and attendance reports, first-year experience programs, and orientation advising.[6]

Weekly touch points have proven effective in my work with students. I have a lead base of 300 students that I manage and as such have to manage my communications with students based on time available. Since there is only so much time in a day all at-risk students receive a phone call every week to check on progress, discuss resources, and answer any questions that may have arisen. For all other students I have weekly emails that I send out that discuss events happening on campus, networking opportunities, resources, and any other important information that students may need with an invitation for the students to reach out to me if they have questions or concerns. This contact allows me to build personal relationships with my students and set an expectation of communication. No matter the size of a student lead base, these communications can be set up and formatted to meet student populations and their needs. As the number of students increases, advisors/coaches will need to identify those students most at risk. The students who do not fall within the at-risk category could have periodic touch points assigned for before classes begin, mid-term, and finals preparation. Coaches will need to identify what works best for their students and their needs.

Intrusive advising has been proven both in my own individual work with a retention of 81 percent, as well as at other institutions. Zane State University implemented intrusive advising and found that retention rates rose from 77 to 82 percent between 2006 and 2009 for at-risk students.[7]

The key to any academic success coaching program is the procedures that they operate under. Intrusive advising allows for consistent clear communication.

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[1] Light, R. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their minds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[2] Varney, J. (2012, September). Proactive (Intrusive) advising. Academic Advising Today, 35(3). Retrieved from!.aspx

[3] Conklin, J.F. (2009). The impact of developmental and intrusive academic advising on grade point average, retention, and satisfaction with advising and the nursing program among first semester nontraditional associate degree nursing students. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. 305076919

[4] Fowler, P.R. & Boylan, H.R. (2010). Increasing student success and retention: A multidimensional approach. Journal of Developmental Education, 34(2), 2-10.

[5] Karp, M. M. (2013, May). Entering a program: Helping students make academic and career decisions. CCRC Working paper No. 59. Retrieved from

[6] Thimblin, A. L. (2015). A case study of community colleges that require academic advising (Order No. 10032354). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Full Text. (1773541520). Retrieved from

[7] Abdul-Alim, J. (2012, February 6). Report: ‘Intrusive advising’ among best practices for community college student success. Retrieved from

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