Success Coaching - The Semester Begins

And now… it's time for the hit, new game show that's sweeping the nation: Get off of Academic Probation and GET! THAT! DEGREE!

The name of the show might be a mouthful, folks, but it's making the American Dream possible for millions every year. Let's meet some of our contestants…

Noah: Noah is a freshman entering college on a basketball scholarship (the good news) and academic probation (the bad news). Noah attended four high schools in four years, and the lack of stability obviously played a toll, for while his jump shot epitomizes follow-through and focus, his high school grades are all over the court.

Dante: While Dante's composite test scores and GPA were all in range, I flagged his file as potentially at-risk because his English and math grades were particularly low, as were some of his ACT subscores. In addition, he made the ACT score that got him accepted by our university on his fourth attempt, and the other three score results would not have met our target composite.

Dan: Dan is arriving on campus seemingly carrying the weight of the world on his back. Six months ago, he lost his mother to cancer. Over the summer, his father was diagnosed with the same disease. An aunt is also battling a likely fatal illness. And yet here he is, excited and ready to jump in with both feet, according to the admissions counselor who has been his primary university contact up to now.

Tracy: Say it isn't so, Tracy! Tracy is a returning sophomore with whom I worked last fall. She came to school desperately homesick and unable, due to her probationary status, to do the one thing that made her the happiest: run track. By the end of the semester, however, Tracy was one of my success stories. She had gotten her grades up enough both to get off academic probation and to run in the spring. That's why I was so disappointed to discover, only days ago, that she had not been able to maintain the academic momentum she'd developed while working with me. But that's okay, Tracy! We'll dig in this fall and find a way to turn it around again. Sometimes you've got to learn lessons a few times before they really stick.

The stories of Dan and Tracy bring up two important points. The first is the invaluable role that our admissions counselors play regarding the students with whom they've been in contact, sometimes for upwards of a year. I can't tell you how helpful it was to have these counselors attend part of our first success coach meeting. They were able to fill in the gaps- to give us information that even careful "transcript sleuthing" cannot provide, from insight into family dynamics to experiences which may have greatly influenced a student's success in high school.

Secondly, Tracy's fall and rise and fall again (going for rise #2 starting next week!) played a big role in the substance of the remarks I made to the entire freshman class earlier this week. Often, the problem with freshmen is that they don't realize how difficult it can be to pull oneself out of an academic hole once one has dug it. So I spoke frankly with them about how hard it can be to come back from a bad first semester, but I also let them know that, luckily, the way to avoid waking up in a ditch of one's own making is simple: speak up. Ask for help. Let someone know you're struggling. Chances are, we have the resources you need to turn it around, but they only help those who take advantage of them.

Susan Marion is the Coordinator for Success Coaches at Tiffin University, in Tiffin, Ohio. She was instrumental in starting success coaching at the institution in 2007.  The program now has fifteen part-time success coaches and supports almost one hundred students who are at risk academically.