Academic coaching is an interactive process that focuses on the personal relationship created between the student and the coach. The coach challenges the student to think about his or her personal and/or professional goals in order to relate them to his or her academic/educational goals. In this learning process, it is important for the coach to encourage the student to become more self-aware by understanding his or her strengths, values, interests, purpose, and passion.” National Academic Advising (NACADA) 

According to a 2011 study by Eric Bettinger and Rachel Baker, “college completion and college success often lag behind college attendance.” Bettinger and Baker say that a reason students struggle to succeed in college is they often lack key information about how to be successful.

Academic coaching is a service provided for undergraduate and graduate students with a trained academic coach who can help you improve your study skills and performance. An academic coach will listen to your needs and concerns as a student and work closely with you to develop personalized academic goals and suggest tools, resources, and strategies to assist you in reaching those goals. Investing in an academic coach improves the odds that students will make the best use of their time in college. Graduate and undergraduate students are expected to be able to manage themselves and their time independently and to be prepared for more rigorous academic challenges.

Academic Coaching versus Tutoring

Both academic coaching and tutoring are aimed at improving a student’s academic outcomes and focusing on specific issues that interfere with those outcomes. But there are noticeable differences.

Ø  Tutoring is about mastering subject-specific content. A math tutor or a French tutor can help you learn how to study that one subject.


Ø  Coaching is about honing the learning process to improve outcomes in all your classes and teaches you study skills that can be applied to all subjects.


Ø  Tutoring is short-term. It helps you with the immediate need (such as passing a test or writing a paper).

Ø  Coaching is long-term. It helps you develop study and concentration skills to succeed in your courses as a whole.


Academic versus Dissertation Coaching

A dissertation coach is someone to help you structure the dissertation or thesis process and effectively help you overcome the numerous barriers that students experience such as anxiety, stress, procrastination, writer’s block, lack of faculty support or committee issues, and managing multiple responsibilities and effective time management.

Ø  Dissertation coaching helps you successfully complete your dissertation or thesis.


Ø  Dissertation coaches focus on students studying in the humanities, social sciences, and hard sciences fields of research.

Ø  An academic coach helps you to plan your research agenda and teach you ways to become a more scholarly writer.


Ø  Academic coaching is about helping students across all fields of study successfully complete their degrees.


Developing Executive Function Skills

Most tutors don’t teach the self-management skills required for success on long-term projects. Academic coaches have a strong understanding of how integral executive function skills are to completing long-term projects successfully. Academic coaches will teach you how to see the steps needed, how to sequence those steps, and how to map out the time needed to complete quality projects on time.

Specifically, coaches can help you with:

Managing Time:  Discuss tools to manage and organize your time as well as learn about available resources to help you plan for projects to avoid procrastination.

Developing Study Strategies:  Explore effective study techniques, identify appropriate methods to support your challenges, and learn about all the available support resources at your institution. This, ideally, will help you come up with a personalized study plan.

Learning Organization:  Like developing effective study habits, learn some organization techniques that will help you to meet all your assignment deadlines and stay on top of your personalized study plan. 

Exploring Motivation and Improving Success:  An academic coach will discuss with you your overall goals and help you examine and understand what motivates you to do your best, and teach you resources to achieve them.

Developing Writing Skills:  An academic coach will help you prepare effectively for any sort of written evaluations. For these, in addition to the above executive functioning skills, you will also be taught how to anticipate what your professor is thinking and expecting out of your assignment. 

Academic coaching can help you develop skills that are necessary for success: decision-making, confidence, time management, and organization. While academic coaching includes elements of traditional tutoring, the goals of academic coaching are broader and more applicable to a variety of subjects (rather than only focusing on surviving the day). As shown in Bettinger and Baker’s study on rates of college persistence, more needs to be known about how to increase college persistence across all sectors of higher education. 


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