From anxious and defeated to confident college student
Kate’s high school track record wasn’t great—she struggled to complete assignments and study for tests, and just barely graduated. When she was overwhelmed with to-dos, she’d avoid looking at her syllabus or rubrics altogether—causing her to fall further behind.
Kate’s family decided she wasn’t ready for the demands of attending a university, so she started her studies at the local community college. Her father reached out about coaching to get her help with organization, planning, and accountability. It was the perfect opportunity for her to start with a clean slate.
A fear of failure
In my first conversation with Kate, I noticed right away that she had a poor self-image—she didn’t see herself as a capable student at all. Her demeanor was flat and negative, and she questioned whether or not she was even college material. Pessimism was her way of protecting the true, underlying issue: her fear of failure.
At the start of our coaching relationship, I asked her to write down what didn’t work for her as a high school student. We were able to explore all the real and perceived failures along her academic journey. Once we had it all out on the table, it was much easier to trace these shortfalls back to lack of preparation, inability to focus attention, and ineffective strategies to organize and prioritize tasks. It wasn’t her intelligence or abilities that were keeping her from succeeding, but her patterns, behaviors, and a lack of structure.
By separating her failures from who she was as a person, I was able to help Kate see that these negative experiences did not diminish her worth. We simply had to create better habits and systems to move forward successfully. Once we made this connection, she became much more open to adapting and we were able to create an action plan.
We began by looking through all of her syllabi and creating a calendar that showed her exactly what was due and when she would be working on it. The next step was to create frequent accountability check-ins. When she was stuck or getting overwhelmed, I was able to offer strategies and support for getting her refocused and on track.
It wasn’t perfect from the get-go, but we worked hard to find a rhythm for working together and it proved to be just what she needed. Our frequent coaching sessions and check-ins gave her confidence and accountability to get her work done. She quickly found that with structure and new habits, she could meet deadlines and cope with overwhelm.
From almost failing to straight As
As it turns out, Kate was quite a good student—in fact, she was a straight-A student! Once I helped her develop routines and strategies her entire outlook and self-image changed for the better. I coached Kate for one year and during that time, I saw a young woman transform from almost failing to an accomplished student on her way to university. By the end of that year, Kate had mastered the executive function skills we worked on together, and now she’s implementing them independently and successfully at Colorado State University.
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