Academic Success Center coaches students to better academic performance


Photo: Jordan Maurice/Iowa State

The Hixson-Lied Student Success Center allows for Iowa State student athletes to meet with mental health advisers. 

Cinthia Naranjo

The Academic Success Center offers academic coaching to students who need help with preparing for exams, note taking, time management, procrastination and reading strategies.

Grace Wolf is one of the academic coaches who helps students improve their academic performance. She meets with 20 students each week. On average, academic coaches see about 100 to 200 students every semester. She said it varies depending on the time of semester, but midterm is when most students reach out for coaching.

During their first appointment, students take a survey to help coaches understand what concerns they have about their academic performance. During the appointment, Wolf said she likes to make connections and build relationships with students. Toward the end of the appointment, the student discusses other concerns and questions they might have. Appointments are 45 minutes long for one-on-one services.

Students now meet for academic coaching virtually due to COVID-19 mitigation measures on campus. Wolf said there are more openings this semester for academic appointments. Students are welcomed to make as many appointments as they wish after an initial appointment; however, there can be a two- to three-week waiting period, depending on the time of year. Wolf has traditionally met with students once or twice a semester or month.

“It’s totally dependent on what that student needs from me and how confident they feel in their moving forward,” Wolf said.

Wolf said she individualizes each student’s academic plan. The before and after survey has shown that most students see changes in their behaviors and academic skills after three appointments. She said she sees many students seeking advice on time management.

“Working on a degree at Iowa State can definitely take some time and adjustment and trying to find what works for certain classes and also trying to make sure students are getting involved and also making meaningful connections with folks around campus,” Wolf said.

Wolf recommends regular planning for students who struggle with time management. Especially during a pandemic, the shift to virtual classes has made it overwhelming for students.

Jordyn Delzer, a senior in animal science, said she is used to online classes.

“I would say the spring semester classes were more stressful due to the fact that I had to put in more hours at my job since everyone went home,” Delzer said. “Trying to balance that with school and harder classes was not ideal. The only concern this semester is trying to get assignments done for professors who are not used to online classes.”

Wolf said instructors are doing a great job at providing information to students.

“I think virtual students are trying to find a way to balance all of that information and kind of an information overload,” Wolf said.

Wolf said students are also having a tough time trying to find the opportunities to give themselves a break without feeling guilty, as well as trying to stay motivated when classes are virtual and procrastination is a major concern.

For effective note-taking strategies, she recommends spending 10 to 15 minutes previewing, reading or reviewing your notes before lecture. It helps students focus and make meaning of what they’re learning.

Brookelyn Kipp, a senior in marketing, said she studies five days before an exam, but time limit is a concern for her.

“If I don’t feel like there’s enough time on an exam, that’s going to bother me,” Kipp said. “I had an exam that was 45 minutes for 50 questions, so that was really stressful.”

For testing and exam preparations, Wolf also recommends students review and do assignments with the intention to learn the lesson. She also recommended that students review their notes five days before their exam.

Wolf said common misconceptions about test preparation is students assume they have to memorize the material.

“That’s typically not the case, so though memorization is an important part of an exam, the how and the why behind it is much more important, including being prepared to do well on the exam,” Wolf said.

Academic coaching gives moral support to students as well. Wolf said though this semester is mainly virtual, it can be lonely at times for students.

“I also think that the semester looks so different that it’s helpful to have another person to process this with and kind of share your thoughts and ideas and concerns and have them validated, and then also to work through solutions together,” Wolf said.

Students can seek an academic coach regardless of their academic performance.

“Academic coaching is great and best utilized when you seek the service early on, so I always say you do not have to be struggling to meet with an academic coach,” Wolf said. “I’m happy to meet with students who have anywhere from whether you’re failing all your classes or whether you have a 4.0 GPA and you want to work on more specific skills.”

Students can make appointments now through Nov. 6 for this semester through ISU appointments.