Transitioning from high school to college is rarely seamless. Many students experience a great deal of anxiety related to financing their education, keeping up with college-level coursework, creating new support networks, and leaving the familiar behind.
So when leaders at the University of Illinois (UIC) learned that mentors from local high schools and nonprofits were “coaching” undergraduates, they welcomed the extra support. But they were also concerned that the external coaches might not have the training and connections on campus to provide students with accurate and efficient information.
After conferring with colleagues at peer institutions, such as the University of Massachusetts Boston, who have addressed similar situations, the idea to create a transition coaching program at UIC was born.
The UIC Transition Coaching Program is really a hub. The university does the internal legwork of managing the relationships among a variety of student support services. Space is provided to external coaches to meet with students. Data regarding resources are centralized, monitored for updates, and shared internally and with external coaches to help troubleshoot issues on a just-in-time basis.
In this pilot year, UIC is working with two community-based organizations and two schools with a total of 223 first-year students among them. The external coaches meet with students a number of times a year and guide them to appropriate campus resources with support of the staff of the Office of First-Year Initiatives. Funding from the university’s Transformational Planning Grant (TPG) project supported the development and assessment of the pilot as well as other aspects of the UIC Student Success Initiative.
TPG was launched by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMFG) to do just this – innovate student success transformations and build sustainable internal and external partnerships that develop successful institutional practices that can be replicated and adapted by other institutions.