Florida State University hosts eighth annual institute to share college life coaching insights

Attendees listen to a speaker during the FSU’s 2024 College Life Coaching Institute, held on June 12-14 at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel in downtown Tallahassee. (Brittany Mobley/Undergraduate Studies)

Florida State University’s success in coaching college students to thrive, helping to fuel record retention rates, has attracted national attention and brought in hundreds of people over the years to learn from FSU’s experts on the subject.

FSU’s Advising First Center for College Life Coaching hosted its eighth annual College Life Coaching Institute in early June. The event attracted professionals from other universities and non-profits who come from across the country and around the world to learn about the strategies and tools implemented at FSU.

“Research has shown that a student having just one connection to a staff member on campus in any area goes a long way in keeping a student at a university,” said Ivan Myers, assistant director of Advising First and program manager for the College Life Coaching Institute. “Coaching is the opportunity for a student to make the most of their college experience with the support of an individual alongside them. The idea behind this institute is that we’ve been so successful that we want to share our strategies with others.”

Sixty attendees from 28 institutions attended this year’s three-day conference in Tallahassee. The event featured workshops, presentations on essential coaching skills, coaching session observations, a student panel and a keynote address from professional life coach Jen Santoro Cleveland.

“I want to thank you all for choosing to be here,” said Cleveland, director of the Citadel Career Center in Charleston, South Carolina. “Soak it in because you’re the change makers. You’re the ones who are going to bring this to your institution and genuinely have such a positive impact on your students’ lives.”

Life coach Jen Santoro Cleveland, director of The Citadel Career Center in Charleston, South Carolina, served as the keynote speaker during FSU’s 2024 College Life Coaching Institute on June 12-14 at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel in downtown Tallahassee. (Brittany Mobley/Undergraduate Studies)

The institute offered two tracks: one for those in advising or coaching roles who work one-on-one with students and another for deans and other administrators who want to build a similar model to FSU’s or expand an existing program.

One attendee of the institute said she was inspired by what she learned about leading students to be proactive in their own college journeys.

“My biggest takeaway from this weekend is to really encourage students to be the pilot of their own life and ask empowering questions so that they’re able to do deep reflections and think about what they truly want rather than immediately coming in to rescue them and give them all the answers,” said Taylor Larsen, a student success advisor for the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University. “In life in general, we all have the answers within ourselves, and it’s a matter of finding someone to really encourage you to dive deeper and to think honestly.”

The College Life Coaching program at FSU includes 17 members who work with roughly 1,800 students over the academic year to shape individual plans designed to lead to academic and personal success.

Students are invited to meet with their coaches for 20 to 25 minutes biweekly during fall and spring semesters. They may discuss time management strategies or ideas for getting involved on campus or how to balance academic and personal life, among other topics. Coaches can also connect students with relevant on-campus resources, such as the Office of Accessibility Services or Counseling and Psychological Services.

Since FSU launched college life coaching in 2009, retention has improved in the groups it serves, including Pell Grant recipients, out-of-state students and first-generation students in their second year.

“We’re so proud of our work in college life coaching,” said LaShae Roberts, director of Advising First and Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies. “We know students benefit greatly from these meaningful interactions with coaches. Coaches genuinely care about their students’ success and support them through the process of developing habits and tools that will allow them to thrive throughout their college career and beyond.”

For more about College Life Coaching and Advising First, visit advisingfirst.fsu.edu. To learn more about the Division of Undergraduate Studies, visit undergrad.fsu.edu.

Director of FSU’s Advising First and Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies LaShae Roberts speaks at the 2024 College Life Coaching Institute on June 12-14 at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel in downtown Tallahassee. (Brittany Mobley/Undergraduate Studies)