Back in the day, when I was studying at high school and college, (which is long time ago indeed), we didn’t have any coaches. We just set our academic goals (or we didn’t), and we did what we could to prepare for the exams, and eventually pursue the degree of our choice. Life was more simple and people were more independent back then.
Nowadays, however, especially in the Unites States, we live in a “coaching culture”. People have coaches for everything–fitness coach, life coach, business coach, sports coach, and of course an Academic Coach. I do not want to speculate whether it really is a “progress” that we need so many coaches to live our life. At the end of the day we cannot turn back the clock, academic coaches belong to the complex system of education as we know it today, and now I will try to show you how you can get this job which typically pays between $45,000 and $55,000 annually.
The interviewers will ask you mostly about your motivation, experience with coaching and counseling, your idea of the job, and, of course, how you’d address certain tricky situations you may face with the students, or what you’d suggest when they are facing adversity. Let’s have a look at the questions.
Why do you want to work as an Academic Coach?
Instead of talking what you hope to gain from the job, focus on what you can give to the students who will work with you. You can start with naming certain skills and abilities that will help you a great deal in the job. Listening skills, emotional intelligence, understanding for the feelings and expectations of the young generation, ability to win their trust, and of course excellent theoretical knowledge of different options students have after finishing high school.
You can also talk a bit about the meaningful purpose you see in this work. We live in an era of information overflow. Young people are often confused, and options seems endless–and sometimes none of them makes sense… It is important to have someone they can confide in with their worries, someone who can guide them when it comes to their academic goals and future career. Seeing the positive impact you can have as an Academic Coach motivates you to pursue this career.
Do you have any previous experience with coaching or counseling?
For scholars titles and certifications matter the most. And you will interview in front of scholars. Hence if you have any relevant coaching certificate, or passed a relevant exam, or went to a seminar on the subject, say so. And if not, ensure them that you are in the process of obtaining your coaching certificate.
Speaking about experience, you either have it or you don’t. And you can come up with a good answer in both cases. If you have experience, instead of just saying what you did and for how long, I suggest you to add one or two short stories. Everyone loves feel-good stories, and your interviewers are no exception to the rule. Maybe you coached a student (or an adult) facing a truly peculiar situation in their life. You’ve asked them the right questions, and helped them to discover the right answers, which eventually allowed them to overcome the problem.
And if you do not have any experience, you can talk about some coaching you did in your personal life. When your friends face a problem, or cannot decide about something important, you are the one they call to. Because you can listen to them and understand them and eventually help them to decide. This experience actually motivated you to apply for a job of an academic coach. Why wouldn’t you earn a living coaching people, when you already do it well in your private life for free, and when you truly enjoy the experience?
How do you imagine your typical day in the office while working as an Academic Coach?
The most important thing is to actually say that you do not plan to spend your days in the office. On the contrary, you want to be out there, in the halls and classes, participating in the events, talking to teachers, counselors and specially to students, building your rapport with them, making sure they understand how you can, and want to help them.
Of course, the core of your job will consist in one on one meetings with the students. Trying to understand both their dreams and fears, you will help them find the answers to important questions about their studies and their professional career.
And when you won’t have anything better to do, you will browse latest information about college admissions processes, financial aid, and student resources, making sure your knowledge stays up to date. You can also suggest working on brochures and other materials you can distribute in the classes to make it easier for the students to set their academic and career goals.
Imagine that you meet a seventeen years old high school student for the first time. How will you lead the meeting with them?
You can start your answer saying that you will prepare for the meeting in advance, learning from the teachers and other resources more about the student, especially their capabilities and study results. When it comes to the meeting, you will firstly introduce yourself. You will explain why they are meeting you, making sure they understand you are there to help them, and also that what is said in your office stays in the office. Trying to gain their trust, you do what you can to make sure they will be open for coaching.
Once done, you will proceed with questions about them, their studies, what they like to do in their free time, and so on, trying to get a better grasp of their personality, strengths and weaknesses. Once you break the ice, you will proceed with more specific questions, related to their studies and future career. Of course, you can also opt for one of the career tests or other assessment tools.
In a job interview, your goal is to demonstrate that you know how to lead such a meeting. You will start with building trust and making sure they are ready to receive coaching. Just then will you proceed with breaking the ice and eventually with the questions that form the core of academic coaching.
How do you want to gain trust of the students, and motivate them to visit your office?
Any academic coach would confirm that it isn’t easy to gain the trust of the students. Just like with everything else in life though, law of action and reaction works, and the more you try, them more you will gain.
I suggest you to say that first and foremost you will make sure students are aware of your office, and understand how you can help them. This includes visiting the classes and introducing yourself in front of the students, explaining your role, and eventually encouraging them to visit your office should they have any doubts about their studies or future career.
You can also emphasize your cooperation with teachers and counselors. They spend more time with the students (including students at risk), and can identify students who may benefit the most from your counseling. Of course, your job in this department isn’t done once they knock on the doors of your office. You have to start the meeting in the right way (check the previous question) to make sure they will trust you, and open up for the coaching…
Other questions you may face in your academic coach interview
- A sixteen years old student visits your office saying she’s pregnant, and considers dropping out from high school. What will you say to her?
- Tell us about your most successful coaching experience up to date.
- How do you make sure to stay up to date with college admission processes and other relevant things for your job?
- A student is barely passing the exams, and always on an edge of dropping out. They visit your office seeking career advice. What options will you present them?
- Tell us about successful student-specific study plans that you’ve helped develop in the past.
- You may not achieve any progress with some students. How do you deal with such a disappointment?
- If we hire you as our new Academic Coach, what goals will you set for the first year in the job?
- Why should we hire you, and not one of the other applicants for the job?
- In your opinion, what forms the core of an effective academic coaching?
- How do you monitor the progress of the students you work with as a coach?
Academic Coach is a specific position which does not belong to popular career choices in education. You typically won’t compete with many other candidates for the job, which makes your situation easier.
On the other hand, you can face many job-specific questions (just as I described in the article), and answering them with silence won’t yield you the desired result in your interview. Think about each question for a while, and try to come up with a brief for each of your answers. I hope you will prepare for all tricky questions, and eventually succeed in your interview. Good luck!
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