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Academic Success Coaching and Creating Return on Investment for Adult Students

The EvoLLLution | Academic Success Coaching and Creating Return on Investment for Adult Students
By personalizing the educational experience and ensuring students stay academically on-track, success coaching can play a pivotal role in helping create value for non-traditional students.

Academic success coaching has found its way into university and community college settings over the past decade as a supplement to the regular advising structures that that were previously in place. The main purpose of this “expansion” is to enhance a support system for the needs of today’s postsecondary student.

According to the Lumina Foundation 36,439,822 people (22.01 percent of the population) has some college but no degree.[1] This segment of the market is generally the non-traditional or adult student population. These adult students are finding their way back into the college setting for any number of reasons, but there are three main ones:

First, many of these students found themselves unemployed due to the massive layoffs during the recent recession. This demographic, while able to maintain their previous positions due to experience, are finding it difficult to re-enter the workforce without a bachelor’s degree. Second, students are looking to move higher within their chosen fields and a bachelor’s degree is the key to the next step on the ladder. Third, students are looking to change careers. In essence the student is looking at their return on investment and making their educational selections accordingly. Academic success coaching is one of the main resources that will show the greater return for a student.

So, how does academic success coaching benefit students? As stated in “A Look at Academic Success Coaching: Impact on the Adult Student,” adult students have a unique collection of concerns and responsibilities that do not typically affect the traditional high school student matriculating to university. Adult students typically have families, jobs and/or financial concerns. When making a decision about where and how to complete a bachelor’s degree the student is going to look at time, cost, flexibility and resources available to complete their programs. The availability of success coaching tells prospective students, before they enroll, that the institution is committed to providing what the student needs, when they need it, in a way that makes sense, and in consideration of the students’ needs and long term goals.

Coaching begins from the time of admission through to completion and includes a constant follow-up with students in addition to the scheduled appointment. When a student begins a program they want to know, “What do I have to complete and how long will it take?” This is the first plan and goal that is put into place by a student. A phone call to students before academic requirements and social challenges begin to mount is a small price to pay, when taking into consideration the high cost of remediation and attrition.[2]

Of course, advising alone is not coaching. Advising is a necessary component of student success but coaching is a relationship built between coach and student focused solely on individual needs and students’ short and long-term goals. During each coaching session, students learn strategies, review previous plans, evaluate how successful they are in following the plans, creatively reorganize their thinking, and create new plans. This practice will aid students in successfully navigating academic and professional strategic plans. Through coaching sessions, students learn how connect current experiences with future goals, skill development, and develop a positive attitude, identify and utilize internal motivation, self-regulation. These skills are necessary for a student to persist despite adversity.[3]

Academic success coaching provides a wealth of benefit for a student that continues beyond completion of the degree program. Students are able to plan out goals and milestones effectively and efficiently. Students develop skills necessary for success such as time management and organization. Finally, students gain the confidence needed to further additional growth opportunities. When looking at the return on investment for an adult student they will save money by taking only the classes that are necessary for completion, build and develop skills necessary for academic success and beyond, and build their confidence.

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[1] Lumina Foundation. (2013). Closing the Gaps in College Attainment. A Stronger Nation through Higher Education. Retrieved from

[2] Hamilton, S. (2013). It takes an institution’s village to retain a student: A comprehensive look at two early warning system undergraduate retention programs and administrators’ perceptions of students’ experiences and the retention services they provide students in the early warning system retention programs (Order No. 3608715). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Full Text. (1496775125). Retrieved from

[3] Downing, K., Kwong, T., Chan, S.W., Lam, T.F., & Downing, W.K. (2008). Problem based learning and the development of metacognition. Higher Education, 57, 609-621.

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