From dropping out to determined: Zachary’s story

Zachary’s first few months at his dream university were tougher than he expected. By November, he wanted to withdraw.

We know from more than sixteen years of coaching that bad grades aren’t the only reason students drop out of school. Poor academic performance can chip away a student’s willingness to persist, but so can financial pressures, outside commitments, and not knowing how to manage time and stress.

Zachary checked most of those boxes. Working two jobs while stretching his finances thin made it difficult to focus on schoolwork, and he didn’t know how to seek help.

“He was a first generation college student, so he had no experience with the institution itself, like how a university works or where to go for support,” explained Dan, Zachary’s InsideTrack coach.

Dan worked with Zachary through his freshman year as part of an InsideTrack Retention Coaching engagement, which supports students in staying enrolled and persisting to graduation.

When Zachary told Dan he wanted to quit, Dan asked him, “‘If there was a way to work through this, would you still want to be in college?’”

In Zachary’s answer, Dan glimpsed his motivation to persevere. Zachary told Dan that he loved the university, and had wanted to attend it ever since he was a kid.

By the next day, Zachary decided he didn’t want to drop out. But learning to navigate the procedures and requirements that would help him succeed took a lot longer.

To support Zachary through this process, Dan worked with him on getting connected to the school community, one of the major focus areas of InsideTrack coaching. Dan showed Zachary where he could go for help — literally.

Zachary didn’t realize that he was part of a program the university offered for first-generation students. Dan informed Zachary of the program and even helped him locate it, texting with Zachary as he walked around campus.

“I realized the most important thing he could take from working with me is developing a relationship with his campus resources,” Dan explained.

He encouraged Zachary to use tutoring, reach out to professors, and keep talking to his campus contact for first-generation students.

The next term, Zachary stayed on track in his classes and completed his assignments early. He started planning for sophomore year and got ready to declare a major.

“He had a path forward,” Dan said.

Even students attending their dream school, like Zachary, need help navigating the realities of college life.

“He got there and realized, ‘now what? I don’t know where to begin. I don’t know how to study. I don’t know what to major in,” Dan said.

By offering personalized support when Zachary needed it, and steering him toward greater self-sufficiency, Dan helped Zachary develop into the student he’d been envisioning since he was a kid.

“He felt like he could have just walked away. But there were people who cared enough to not let him quit,” Dan reflected. “I think that sometimes for students to believe in themselves, they have to know that someone else believes in them too.”

*Student name has been changed

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