Building Confidence is Crucial

Every month I travel to 13 institutions across Missouri and to the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. As a postsecondary coach with Kauffman Scholars, Inc., I hold individual meetings with 164 scholars to gauge their academic progress, college assimilation, goal setting and milestones, and success plans.

Why? Because here’s what we know: the first semester is crucial to scholars’ success. One of the biggest obstacles is cultural and social assimilation. Navigating a foreign environment and adjusting to the new academic rigor can be daunting. It is easy to focus on the negative and fall behind.

As students head toward an ever-stressful finals week, I saw my scholars at Northwest Missouri State entering the Office of Diversity and Inclusion confidently greeting staff and exchanging fist bumps with upperclassmen. I could not help but feel a sense of pride.

Strategy to Success

What a contrast from the uncertain, shy students that I witnessed only two short months ago. In my first meetings, students often question their academic abilities, making friends, time management, living away from home, and making the most of their experience. Scholars are working to find a good rhythm that suits their learning style. Most often, we review their weekly calendar and strategize ways to effectively allocate free time for study, extracurricular activities, and “me time.” I also direct them toward campus resources and professor office hours. The more familiar a scholar becomes with their campus the more confident they are about succeeding.

The most common conversation I have with scholars is about utilizing on-campus resources, partnering with professors and time management. In every interaction, I ask my scholars to reflect and highlight the positives and any challenges that they may be facing. Almost always, the scholar is able to find motivation to work through strengths rather than being overcome by their fears.

During my recent visit to Northwest Missouri State, scholars shared their progress and the journey to realizing their career path. A common theme was learning how to self-motivate and becoming more self-aware. One scholar said, “I was surprised at how much I could get done once I put my mind to it; I am learning to be self-motivated. I like having resources available that can help me mentally, physically, and spiritually.” Paying close attention to strengths and weaknesses and likes and dislikes, allows scholars to assess their progress on a monthly basis. Though not all scholars meet their milestones, accountability is key.

Through our monthly interactions I have learned that scholars look forward to sharing their journey with someone who cares. The post-secondary experience is a rite of passage, a unique journey that offers students the freedom to think critically, explore, succeed, fail, but ultimately learn about who they are or want to be. I am proud to be a witness to share and support them as they pursue their passion.

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Sophia Garcia joined the Kauffman Scholars team in 2014 as a Secondary Coach and transitioned to Postsecondary Advisor in 2015. Her role is to assist scholars in finding their best fit college and prepare them for postsecondary success.