Coaches Provide Critical Support via Text Messages

Our coaches often chat with students over the phone. However, more and more meetings occur via text message as many students, especially millennials, tend to engage more in this medium. Interactions take many forms: from a simple question-and-answer session or a longer conversation to resolve an issue, develop a strategy or offer reassurance and support.

In the example below, Laura struggled academically as her father passed away during the fall semester. She feared losing her scholarship. Without a scholarship, she would lose her chance at a college education. The text exchange below illustrates how Coach Kimmy Benson helped Laura put together a plan to take action rather than be overwhelmed by the fear and shame of the situation. The text exchange has been shortened for clarity and brevity.

Coach Kimmy: How’re you doing, lady?

Student Laura: I’m pretty good, I can’t complain.

Coach: Okay, are you on your phone and free for the next 20 minutes so we can have a text meeting and solve your problems?

Student: haha, yes, that’ll work fine!

Coach: Ok, perfect. Honestly, I can’t say we’ll solve everything, but hopefully we’ll at least give you some next steps. Before I launch into problem solving though….honestly, Laura, how are you feeling with what you know?

 COACH TIP: Make sure student fully understands the situation before discussing a solution

Student Laura: I guess I feel like I’m just not sure on how I’m doing, or if I’ll be able to do well.

Coach Kimmy: So definitely some uncertainty. Let’s clear some of that up then. At this point, do you know what your cumulative GPA is?

Student: Yes, it’s about 1.7 something.

Coach: Awesome! So that tells us a couple of things. First, you still have a change. Second, you’re just a wee bit below the scholarship requirement. How many credits have you completed?

Student: I’ve looked before, I just don’t remember for sure.

Coach: Let’s check it out….I have it pulled up right here. One second. I count 34! That sound about right?

Student: I think so!

Coach: Dude, Laura, reality check. You’ve got over the amount of credits you need and you’re only .33 away from a 2.0 and you have summer. AND you’re not dismissed!

Student: So, it doesn’t sound THAT bad??? Lol

Coach: Hahahaha! Not that bad. The important thing here is you could still keep your scholarship if we can get your GPA about 2.0 by the end of summer. With that info, how do you feel now?

Student: I feel better knowing I’m good with credits. I’m just not sure how I’d go about paying for a summer class if needed.

 COACH TIP: Blend informative and developmental coaching: student has hope for resolution but needs to feel empowered to find the resources she needs to solve the problem herself after the meeting

Coach Kimmy: Let’s talk about that since that’s the critical piece, then. Courses are often discounted, but you’ll likely still have to pay out of pocket. The question is…how much will that be, and how much could you potentially afford. If it’s a matter of do or die, school or no school…Are you will to look at summer options to potentially get you back in school in the Fall? Or are there some lingering doubts there?

Student Laura: Yeah, I definitely want to stay on track with going this fall. I have no idea how much a class would cost or when I’d have to pay it.

Coach: That’s why we have each other. Two brains! We’re pretty brilliant together, let’s figure it out. Are you near a laptop or are you out and about?

Student: Yes, I can hop on mine really quick

Coach: Ok, I want you to look up Financial Aid’s contact info. I’m going to look up the academic calendar to see when classes start.

 COACH TIP: Empowerment comes from taking ownership of the situation and learning the skills to find the knowledge oneself

Student Laura: I have the number in my phone. I know that.

Coach Kimmy: Uh, you’re winning! Ok, there’s a summer session starting on July 5th. It’s a 6 week session, so you could get a class in and done by August 15th. When would you have time to call Financial Aid and ask about options for covering a summer class? It’s always worth to check to see if you have any aid leftover.

Student: I have their number, the Bursars number, and the advising offices in my phone just in case!! And that doesn’t sound too bad. What would I take, just anything? I can call them anytime tomorrow.

Coach: Side note: love your preparation and that you have those numbers in your phone. That’ll come in handy for the next three years. To answer the question about classes – you’d need to talk to an advisor, but you’d want to take a course in your degree map. So three next steps really. Talk to Financial Aid about potential funds, talk to an advisor about what class to take, and talk to administration to confirm if you pass.

Student: Ok, that’s what I figured. Makes sense.

Coach: If there’s not another option – if it falls on you – let’s think about that – what are you options for coming up with the money for a summer course?

 COACH TIP: Build commitment and resilience by helping the student create plans and back-up plans

Coach Kimmy: It’s likely be around $800 for one class. I’m basing that on tuition being $216 per credit hour, plus fees.

Student Laura: Would I be able to get a small student loan? I’ve never done that before.

Coach: Financial Aid could let you know if that’s an option. I’m honestly not sure.

Student: Ok, I have an appointment with my advisor on June 9th and I can set up a financial aid meeting or whatever I need to do within the next few days.

Coach: Yes, yes, yes! Do you feel like you know what you need to ask Financial Aid?

 COACH TIP: Make sure students not only know next steps but also know the information they want to take away from upcoming appointments

Student Laura: I need to meet requirements, so would that get back on track if my GPA is up so I can still receive my scholarship? I guess I can ask Financial Aid that, along with what I can do about a summer class.

Coach Kimmy: Financial Aid will know for sure – what you’re referring to is called SAP standards (Satisfactory Academic Progress). Your credits are solid, but definitely ask.

Student: Ok, got it!

Coach: I know we’re talking about ALL THE THINGS and it’s a lot Laura, but these baby steps are going to keep your scholarship intact. AAAND can I just say that you totally killed it last semester. Your improvement from first semester second semester was amazing – especially with all you had going on.

Student: Last semester was definitely easier – for whatever reason. I felt more confident with it and had better people in my life helping me out. I will feel better and better about this the more info I get and the more people I talk to.

Coach: Truth: you’re not information-less anymore. You’ve got some next steps, you’re hopeful, and honestly, you belong here. We want you here at school. Remember how that first week of school I protected the pin you lost until you could come get it?

Student: Yes, of course!!!

Coach: That’s how I feel about your scholarship. I wanna protect the heck out of it until you can come back to in in the Fall. For real.

Student: That’s such a sweet analogy. I love it!!

Coach: I know you need to go to work soon, so I’ll stop texting your ear off (does that even make sense?) BUT – was this text extravaganza helpful? How do you feel?

Student: I feel like I actually have a plan that I can work with now. I feel much better than before when I was just kind of lost.

Coach: Perfection. That’s what we’re going for, right? I’m out on Wednesday, but I’ll check in with you Thursday to see what you found out from Financial Aid. In the meantime, you know I’m here and I’ve got you back. Hope you have a great day!

Student: That works for me! Thank you so much Kimmy!!

Note: Laura did get aid for summer, took two classes, got B’s in both, and continued into Sophomore year above a 2.0.

Student name has been changed

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