While studying at a college seems easy for many people, some students do struggle. They may find it hard to bear the pressure, to set their goals and develop the study habits, to handle the financial commitments, or even to understand the admission process. College is not a high school. If one does not get it right from the start, they may easily find themselves out of money, or even worse–out of the college.

Working as an Academic Coach, you will help the students to manage the transition from high school to college, asking them the right questions, helping them to set goals, and supporting them on their journey, especially during the freshman year. Employed by the high school, or directly by the college, you will provide one on one coaching to the students who are in need of your help.

Let’s have a look at the questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting job.

 

Why do you want to work as an Academic Coach?

In an ideal case, you should refer to a few things. First and foremost, your skills and abilities that make from you a good candidate for the position. You have excellent listening skills, throughout knowledge of college admission process, financial aid options, and different resources at school–basically anything the student may need once they are starting.

You have an ability to understand the needs and wishes of an individual, and help them devise their study and career goals accordingly.

Secondly, you see a meaningful purpose in this job. You’ve also been a student, you know how hard the transition can be for some people, and understand the crucial role you may play in a success (or failure) of some students. Hence you are super motivated to try hard and have some positive impact.

Last but not least, you see this is a step on your own career plan. It’s likely not your final position. You may aspire to work as a school counselor later on, or perhaps even a life coach, or in the school administration. Coaching students is a valuable experience which will help you in your entire career.

 

How do you want to find the students who need your coaching services?

You cannot really find them, but you should make it easy for them to find you. Say that you want everyone to be aware of your presence at school. You may participate in the events for the newcomers, or even during the admission process. If you apply for a job at a high school, you can suggest making a short fifteen minute presentation in the classes, explaining who you are and how you can help the students.

Being open and genuine right from the start should help you gain their trust, so they may eventually seek your help.

You can also suggest cooperating with counselors and other professionals, who may suggest right adepts for coaching. But you definitely won’t force the issue, because you know that the initiative must come from the side of the student. Hence you will try to be present among the students, and make sure that everyone knows about your role, and can easily contact you.

You meet with a student for the first time. What will you tell them?

Listening is more important than talking, at least during the first meetings. You can say that you will briefly explain your role, and how you can help them. And then you will ask questions, starting with their goals, vision of the future, etc.

Of course if they come with a certain problem, and want to talk about it in particular, you will simply hear them out and start from there. Anyway, you should emphasize the importance of listening, and of asking the right questions at the start of your cooperation. You can hardly coach anyone before you understand their wishes, fears, and problems.

 

How do you want to track the progress of the students you coach?

You have several ways of tracking their progress. The most simple (and universally applicable) is setting clear and tangible goals with each student. Now, the students do not have to be aware of all your goals. They may be aware of some–for example passing a certain exam or getting a certain form of scholarship, but you can also set goals from your perspective.

For example, if they are shy and restrain from participating in the campus life, one of your goals can be to help them overcome the mental block and join some activities with fellow students. Or if you feel that they do not have confidence in their chances to eventually earn a degree, your goal can be to boost their confidence.

Having clear goals and regular meetings with each student you coach, you can easily monitor the progress they make. You can also suggest some software applications or tools that will make your tracking easier–if you prefer to use them in your work.

 

Some students may fail to meet the goals, or they may even drop out, regardless of your coaching efforts. How do you want to deal with such setbacks?

Ensure the hiring committee that you will try your best to not get emotionally attached to the students. At the end of the day, you are not a dreamer. You know that while you play an important role in the life of the students, you aren’t the only influence they have in life.

Their peers, parents, partners, role models–all of them impact their decisions and college life. Hence you prefer to focus on your efforts, and not on the results. You will simply try your best to help each student, and you won’t give up easily. But whether they eventually manage to reach their career goals is not something you have under your control–and hence you won’t be disappointed if they do not.

To sum it up, you will try your best to keep the emotions out of your work. That should help you avoid an eventual disappointment if someone fails.

 

How do you imagine your cooperation with a school counselor, principal, and with other professionals working at this educational institution?

Ensure the hiring committee about two things. You are a team player, and not a lonely wolf. That’s the first thing. You know that your job and professional competences have some boundaries.

In some cases, the best thing you can do for the student is refer them to a counselor, school psychologist, or some other skilled professional. But you hope that your colleagues (teachers included) will do the same–that they will promote and recommend your services anytime they have a feeling that some student may benefit from meeting you.

The second thing you should ensure them about is the integrity of your coaching practice. While you may ask your colleagues for help, or even refer a student to their office, you won’t share any sensitive information about the students you coach with anyone–including the counselors. That’s the only way to build trust within the student community…

 

Other questions you may face in your Academic Coach job interview

  • Imagine that one of the students you coach falls in love with you. What will you do in this situation?
  • One of the students shares with you that they have suicidal thoughts sometimes. How will you react?
  • Tell us about the last time when you managed to solve a difficult problem on your own.
  • Speaking about the upcoming school year, can you explain the main financial aid options students can apply for?
  • One of the students complains about the problems they have in their personal life, claiming that they lost their motivation to study because of the problems. What will you say to them?
  • In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges students face during the first year at the college?
  • Who has impacted you the most in your professional career (or in your life)?

 

Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a position of an Academic Coach belongs to interviews with average difficulty. I know about instances when more than twenty people, all of them still studying, applied for the position. But I also heard about a situation when a school struggled to find one coach.

As you can surely imagine, it’s easier to succeed when you are the lone candidate than when you compete with ten or twenty other applicants.

Anyway, you should focus on the things that you can control. Learn as much as you can about their high school or college–including the people who will lead the interview with you.

And prepare at least a a short answer to each question from my list, trying to demonstrate your motivation, understanding of the job, knowledge of the college life and everything related to it, and also your excellent listening and communication skills.

I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck!

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Glen Hughins
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