Student stories of what it takes to get to graduation

Small steps toward the big day

The homework is done, the papers are turned in and the final exams are a wrap. It’s over! For most graduates, walking across the stage and picking up their diploma is one of the biggest days of their lives. Yet the little moments along the way that helped get them here can be just as important. InsideTrack Coaches work hard to make sure students get on — and stay on — the right track to graduate. Through one-on-one connections, these coaches have been able to play a key role in supporting students along their journey. And with graduation day at hand, those journeys are now coming to fruition. In celebration of the graduation season, we asked a few of our coaches to share stories about how they helped a student get over a particular bump in the road, making sure they stayed on track toward the greater goal.

Starting the educational journey on the right foot

“I’ve spoken with many first-generation students and students who are new to the U.S. education system. They often cite their lack of knowledge and understanding of the system.

I’m quick to normalize that and tell them it’s OK, letting them know that many colleges and universities have their own specific policies and procedures, so it can feel overwhelming for anyone — regardless of your background.

From there, we focus on finding the right questions for the student to ask so they can navigate each university’s system and make the best decision on which school to attend.”

— Daniel Wood

Staying committed

“During a round of support emails to adult students in preparation for the upcoming start of the summer term, one student emailed me back to ask when fall registration opened. My coaching senses told me that even though the student registered for summer courses months ago and never indicated dropping the term in their email, the fact that they were asking about fall might mean they wanted to push back their start date. I answered their question with my own question: ‘How are you feeling in regards to preparing for starting this summer?’ I got a response of ‘I feel good about everything.’ Five minutes later, the same student sent another email, admitting that they were thinking about withdrawing and waiting until fall.

“From there, I facilitated space for the student to think about the pros and cons of waiting, then wrapped it up by reconnecting with the student’s primary motivation.

We worked on building motivation, commitment to graduation and assessing obstacles.

I learned that as is often the case, money was an obstacle — as the student was thinking about using it for their granddaughters to study dance. In the end, the student decided to stick with their registration for summer term. They confirmed this decision to me and said ‘Thank you for walking me through my thought process.’ They even confirmed that they had already paid in full for tuition! It was exciting to be part of this significant shift in commitment.”

— Sophia Jackson

Be true to yourself

“I’ve had several coaching meetings centered around ‘how to find my path’ with traditional students in their first year.

Students are second-guessing their degree, and coaching gives them space to exhale, talk about their interests and discuss what moves them. It also provides the opportunity to explore options and try on different degree paths.

“One student felt pressured to pursue accounting and selected that as their major in the fall, but soon battled internal conflict around what brings them joy. We made a list of what they were drawn to, and the underlying theme was ‘helping people.’ Ultimately, the student switched to a human services major and feels so motivated now.”

— Erin Swenson

Turning negatives into positives

“I remember providing career coaching for a student at a private research university. She shared that she gets bored when she has to work on the same thing every day.

She told me that she likes to start projects and then move on to the next task before finishing — but she knows this is likely a bad way to work. Through coaching, I was able to share the positive side of her skill and we discussed how being able to multitask can be a benefit to her employer.

She walked away from coaching seeing herself in a new light.”

— Tina Jones

Finishing with purpose

“I worked with an adult student in her 50s who just finished her bachelor of science in nursing degree. She started her nursing degree many years ago when her son was in a bad accident and passed away. Then she came back and eventually finished the program — working through challenge after challenge, including health problems and understaffing issues at work. She told me that ‘This degree symbolizes the strength and perseverance I have been through to get to this point. This was a goal I was trying to accomplish when tragedy hit, and now I’m bringing it full-circle. I even turned in my final exam for the program on Mother’s Day.’

“When we reflected on where she is in her life now that she’s accomplished this personal and professional milestone, she shared with me that she’s more solution-focused in and outside of work.

She said she also feels more marketable and has increased her self-confidence. She’s even considering pursuing a master’s program, which she never thought was even a possibility before now.”

— Emilia Gilroy-Sander


Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College used coaching to help incoming freshmen get over the hurdles of navigating school and onto their second year.

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