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“What is academic coaching?”

The Learning Center offers academic coaching as a strengths-based method of academic support open to all undergraduate students. In 45-minute one-on-one meetings, our academic coaches connect with students across a range of majors, years, and backgrounds to help them identify and achieve academic goals. Thousands of Carolina students seek out academic coaching because coaches meet them where they are and support them in developing specific academic skills—e.g. better strategies for studying in a particular course, creating a study schedule, or navigating academic transitions. Through ongoing coaching, academic coaches also support students in developing broader life skills including improved self-awareness, decision-making, confidence, and resilience.

Academic coaches collaborate with students to empower them to:

  • Set and take action toward goals
  • Stay accountable and committed to goals
  • Understand their habits and thinking patterns
  • Understand their strengths and weaknesses
  • Improve self-regulation
  • Learn effective study skills

“What kinds of things do students work on in academic coaching?”

Students seek academic coaching voluntarily and bring a wide range of topics to their sessions. Often, students have broad goals, such as wanting to improve their time-management skills—the most popular coaching topic in the Learning Center. Through academic coaching, students will explore strategies to help them create structure and balance in their daily lives, keep track of assignments and other responsibilities, and manage distractions and procrastination.

Sometimes students bring narrow goals to an academic coaching session, such as wanting support to improve note taking, tackle large amounts of reading, and utilize effective study skills for tests. Coaches guide students as they explore new learning strategies, and they also encourage them to practice these strategies in the session and on their own.

Students transitioning to Carolina for the first time frequently want support adjusting to being a student at a large research university. For example, these students often seek academic coaching to discuss the new challenge they face taking large classes that meets only twice a week. Coaches can help them identify ways of connecting with their professor or teaching assistants to build relationships and get the additional assistance they may need.

Most students will schedule ongoing academic coaching sessions in order to benefit from regular accountability and encouragement around their long-term goals.

“How can academic coaching support students in my course?”

Students frequently utilize our academic coaching services for support in a specific class. This course-centered support includes and extends beyond work with our STEM specialists. Time management and procrastination are two common academic coaching topics. Our academic coaches also work with students in developing strategies to studying and exam preparation, tracking assignments, managing reading, and planning long-term projects.

“Who are the Academic Coaches?”

Our staff consists of permanent, professional coaches as well as trained graduate student coaches. All staff receive the same fundamental training and facilitate coaching sessions using the same pedagogy, principles, and what we call a “coach approach” to support students across our programs. Any student can work with any coach and have a productive session tailored to their unique needs. That said, we have academic coaches who specialize in working with students who have ADHD and Learning Differences, and we have staff who specialize in supporting students in STEM classes.

“Do you offer coaching groups?”

Yes. In addition to working individually with an academic coach, students can also work collaboratively in groups. In fact, some students prefer to connect with peers navigating similar issues, so coaching groups provide a good place for an initial connection to the Learning Center. We offer coaching groups designed to support students in Biology 101, Chemistry 101 and 102, Math 130 and 231, and Physics 114. We also offer a coaching group to support students who have ADHD. Finally, we offer topical coaching groups, such as “Conquering College Reading” and “Academic Life Balance.”

“How does academic coaching differ from peer tutoring and academic advising?”

While academic coaching sessions can sometimes focus on specific course content, their scope is typically broader. Peer tutoring sessions, on the other hand, focus exclusively on course content. Also, academic coaches guide students to make strides in a range of topics impacting their entire academic life; peer tutors work with their peers to make strides in specific classes.

Similarly, while academic coaches may touch on issues around course planning and major requirements with students, academic advisers guide students in discussions around these topics with greater breadth and depth.

“What is the history of academic coaching in the Learning Center?”

UNC was one of the first universities in the country to offer coaching to students and has continued to serve as a national leader in this student approach. It was first available to students with ADHD beginning in 2000 through the department of Learning Disabilities Services. Staff at that time received extensive training from the Co-Active Training Institute—one of the first coaching schools in the country. In 2007, an administrative restructuring merged staff from Learning Disabilities Services with staff from the Learning Center and the long-standing Writing Center in forming one department tasked with providing academic support to all UNC students. Since then, all staff within the Writing and Learning Center receive introductory coaching instruction through the Co-Active Training Institute, followed by ongoing training and support from their colleagues within the Learning Center.