A first-gen student and his InsideTrack coach have the right chemistry for success

Heading into college, some students struggle with time management. Others have challenges with test anxiety or feeling overwhelmed. For William, an incoming freshman, the issue was chemistry. According to his InsideTrack coach, Jodi Rafkin, “He told me he wasn’t any good at chemistry. This self-doubt was casting a cloud over his very first term and he was discouraged before the class even began.”

Jodi knew that the only way William could pass the course – and ultimately succeed in college – was by challenging his beliefs about himself, giving him the power to tackle the challenges of chemistry (and all his other classes) head on.

Laying the foundation

When Jodi meets with new students, she tells them the goal in their first year is to figure out what works for them to achieve the results they want. She knew that if she and William could develop a strategy for passing chemistry, he’d not only achieve his desired result for that course, but he’d also have a strong foundation for future success.

InsideTrack coaching concentrates on eight specific Focus Areas, which cover topics touching on some of the most common challenges students face, like finances, extracurricular commitments and connecting to the school community.

After learning more about where William was in each area, Jodi encouraged him to use support resources on campus, like tutoring. She also helped him come up with a game plan for time management — which turned out to be a plan for William to incorporate basketball games into his study schedule.

Finding the right routine

From their conversations, Jodi understood that William’s exam preparation would also need to include some downtime.

"We talked weeks before his first college final exams about what he needed to do to be as well-prepared as he possibly could be. We also talked about not burning out. He likes watching basketball — it helps him unwind. So I asked, ‘how do you build that in?’”

As the end of the term approached, William got in the habit of studying for a few hours before a 7:30 p.m. game, and then reviewing the material again after the game was over.

By the end of the term, success was just another part of the routine, like studying or sports.

Sticking to the plan

How well did the plan Jodi and William developed to ace his exams work? Very well. William got an A on his final exam and an A in chemistry. Reminding him that he didn’t like chemistry in high school and didn’t believe he was any good at it, Jodi asked him to think about what made the difference this time. He thought for a minute, then said, “I just did it. I did the work. I used the resources. I went to the tutoring. I got it done.”

“I can do anything I put my mind to.” – William, student

Jodi followed up by asking, “So what does this tell you about yourself?” She still recalls William’s response: “That I can do anything I put my mind to.” They went on to discuss how this could be a game changer. And how any of the stories William had created up to this point about what he wasn’t “good” at did not have to be true going forward.

“I just did it. I did the work. I used the resources. I went to the tutoring. I got it done.” – William, student

And just like a chemical reaction in the lab, the change that resulted from Jodi and William’s work together bubbled over to impact his entire college career.

* Student name has been changed

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