Training Module 5A
Expectations, Student Engagement, and Data Tracking/Reporting
About this Module
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the last of our onboarding training modules! We appreciate your persistence and diligence as we make sure that volunteers are well-equipped to understand our Destination College program, provide outstanding support to students in the class of 2020, and help us track the key data points we need to evaluate our goals and results.
This is ScholarMatch training module 5A for coaches planning to be matched 1:1 with 2019-2020 students, both locally in the SF Bay Area and LA, as well as virtually with students nationwide. For volunteers planning to serve as a drop-in center college coaches in SF or LA, please complete training module 5B. Only any SF or LA volunteers intending to serve as both a drop-in center coach and match with students need to complete both modules 5A and 5B.
Our Expectations for College Coaches
Please read the following closely to understand our expectations of your commitment to our students:
- Committed, not Necessarily Expert, Engagement
College coaches are expected to provide consistent support by dedicating 2-3 hours per month for each student (or 4-5 hours per month total for volunteers working with two students) between real-time direct service and supporting research/preparation. We expect you to be present and responsive, but you are not expected to be the expert on every college or every aspect of this process. For students, being able to count on you is invaluable, and part of the coaching process is asking questions and finding answers together. ScholarMatch will be providing support for specific objectives along the way, and our volunteer community will also be at your disposal for collaborative problem solving, so you won’t need to be a singular source of information.
Regular communication is key to building strong relationships. Even if you only connect with your students for our minimum guideline–a substantive, two-way interaction once per month–we encourage you to check in with students weekly (or as often as students request). While you should be open to using a variety of communication methods, including but not limited to text messaging, phone calls, emails, Google Hangouts (or face-to-face meetings in our drop-in center for local coaches!), you should be prepared for the likelihood that your student feels most comfortable corresponding via text messaging.
Please note: if you are a local coach based in the SF Bay Area or LA Area who elects to match with a local student, we will provide you with detailed instructions for booking appointments to work together in our college center when we pair you off over the summer. As a locally matched coach, you will be expected to meet once per month with students in our center, and are encouraged to continue the collaboration virtually in between appointments. If you live in the SF Bay Area or LA Area but this in-person commitment once per month in our center does not sound feasible for you, you’ll be welcome to indicate during the next phase of the onboarding process that you prefer to work with a remote student virtually.
Please inform us immediately if at any point you are unable to keep your commitment to your student. Additionally, let us know if you are having trouble contacting your student and staff will follow-up with them.
- Student-Centered Mentality & Responsiveness to Student Needs
ScholarMatch screens for students who demonstrate interest in and need for working with a College Coach. We explicitly communicate expectations for all students who enter our program. Even so, there is a range of engagement levels within the students we match with coaches. Some students need high-touch support and work very closely with their coaches over the entire program year. Others are only interested in occasional help, and may work independently for more of the process. For ScholarMatch, working from a student-centered philosophy means that we offer all of the support we can in clear terms and actionable steps, perform our due diligence in framing the myriad benefits of working with a coach, and then respect however our students prefer to engage, acknowledging the larger contexts shaping their lives. Even if one of your students doesn’t engage as much as the other, you can still make a powerful impact at key inflection points in their educational journey.
- Documentation and Reporting
In order to evaluate our program’s impact and areas for improvement, and report to our partners and funders, ScholarMatch must regularly collect essential data such as college application lists, acceptance outcomes, and frequency of coach-student communication. Coaches will be tasked with reporting this data using communication logs and brief monthly reports, and with supporting students through several milestone checkpoint submissions. You will receive a full advising handbook with complete instructions around these required reports when you’re matched with your students, and we’ve provided some further details below. The important point to note for now is that these brief reports are equally essential to your College Coach role as your direct service supporting students. We count on your help in this way to understand what’s happening with our program on the ground, and measure our impact.
- Appropriate Content
At ScholarMatch, our rule of thumb is if you can’t talk about it in front of a student’s grandmother, then you shouldn’t talk about it with your student. Only discuss sensitive topics when it relates directly to the work you two are doing. Additionally, we expect that you will not solicit students for any services you provide privately, such as for-profit college or career consulting.
It is important that every ScholarMatch student feels that their privacy is respected. Please do not discuss personal information about students with anyone else.
If you ever feel uncomfortable in a situation with a student, reach out to a ScholarMatch staff member immediately.
- Committed, not Necessarily Expert, Engagement
Student Engagement pt.1
Student Engagement Throughout the Year
Engagement with your students will likely vary throughout the program year. The chart below illustrates the typical pattern of engagement we have observed in past years:
While we expect our coaches to proactively connect with their students each month, we know from past years’ experience and from other organizations doing similar advising work that student engagement varies throughout the program cycle. Engagement rates are highest over the summer after we first pair students with coaches, and during the busy fall application season. It’s normal to touch base less frequently during the winter, and then for engagement to tick back up in the spring as students weigh their acceptances, financial aid award letters, and final decisions.
While we carefully screen for motivated students who demonstrate need and interest in matching with a coach for a year-long relationship, we’ve also learned that a program at this scale involves a small attrition rate of students who opt-out of our services or stop responding to outreach. We take the project of minimizing this attrition rate seriously. If lack of responsiveness becomes an issue for you, please let us know and we will supply you with detailed instructions and talking points for contacting these students.
Student Engagement pt.2
We also want to prepare you for the possibility that a student you’re matched with may not engage as much as you hope, and make sure that you can maintain a student-centered perspective if such a situation arises.
Keeping some of the following points in mind may help:
- All high school seniors applying to college, especially those identifying as lower-income, first-generation, and/or students of color, are under significant stress from multiple sources. Our job as college coaches is to strike a delicate balance between empowering them to complete all the milestones necessary for a successful college process, which takes time and effort, while not adding extra pressure to an already stressful phase in their life journey.
- Every year, we see in program surveys that students rate their coaches’ support at much higher levels of quality than coaches rate their own work. This means that even when coaches aren’t sure if they’re being helpful or not, students indicate that receiving reminders, resources, and knowing that someone is there to assist if needed is incredibly helpful for their college process, whether or not they’re highly engaged for the whole year.
- As disappointing as it can be for coaches to feel like students are not reciprocating their efforts, it’s important to understand that this lack of engagement, when it occasionally occurs, doesn’t necessarily reflect that students don’t care. Factors for low engagement among our students can include discomfort asking for help, feeling stretched too thin with school or family responsibilities, still learning communication skills, or feelings of overwhelm from all of the people and tasks vying for their attention. All of this to say: there are so many factors outside of our control that contribute to student engagement. As long as you put in a concerted effort to thoughtfully support your students, you will meet our expectations for you as a coach.
We’re providing this framing during our onboarding process to make sure we’re as transparent as possible about this dynamic, and prepare you to encounter the range of student engagement which exists within an initiative at our scale. But fear not! The majority of our students are enthusiastic and grateful to have a College Coach in their corner during the admissions process, and most take full advantage of the opportunity.
Data Tracking and Reporting
In order to understand trends in student behavior and outcomes, ScholarMatch tracks key data points throughout the admissions process. Collecting this information is imperative for us to better understand the needs of our students and improve our program to best serve them. Furthermore, we must collect and report this information to key partners and funders to sustain support for this program. We cannot stress enough how critically important your role is with this data collection.
As a College Coach, you will have a much more personal relationship with your students than our staff will, and will be your students’ primary connection to ScholarMatch. For this reason, we rely on our Coaches to help us gather information on pivotal college application milestones for students, such as when financial aid forms are submitted, how many colleges a student applied to, and which scholarships they were successful in receiving.
College coaches are required track progress with their students in 3 ways:
- Coaching Logs: a brief “sign-out” form required from coaches after each substantive meeting with a student.
- Monthly Coach Reports: a slightly longer check-in form to summarize progress and submit relevant data once per month.
- Supporting Student Reports: reminding students to submit brief monthly check-in forms, and helping them to complete several one-time Student Milestone reports.
You must complete a Coaching Log form after every substantive interaction you have with your students. The form only takes 1-2 minutes to complete. Our definition of a substantive interaction includes phone calls, video chats, extended two-way email exchanges, extended two-way text message exchanges, essay editing sessions via shared google docs or other platforms, and face-to-face meetings in our drop-in center for local coaches matched with local students.
Voicemail messages you leave, one-way text messages, one-way emails (besides the special case of your first outreach to your student), and brief or administrative two-way exchanges (e.g. scheduling a meeting or confirming an application submission) do not count as substantive interactions and do not need to be reported.
You will report the following information in every Coaching Log:
- Date of interaction
- Method of communication
- Topics discussed/worked on
- Estimated length of conversation/your work
- (Optional: Comments or Notes)
The purpose of the Coaching Log is not to evaluate coaches based on the frequency of their communication (although we may follow-up with you if we notice you have not submitted one for a long time), but rather to gain a complete picture of what is happening in our program. To that end, you should never feel that it will reflect poorly on you if your student has been unresponsive to your outreach. You will have the opportunity to tell us how often you have attempted to contact them in your monthly coach report.
Monthly Coach Report Forms
At the end of every month, you will be asked to take 5-10 minutes to complete a brief Coach Report form. In this form, we ask questions about key milestones relevant to the month. For example, in the Fall, we will ask questions about your students’ college lists and when they submitted the FAFSA. In the Spring, questions will center on where students were accepted and what their financial aid packages look like.
It is imperative that you submit these reports in a timely manner, even if you are unsure of the answers (you can always note that you do not yet know an answer). We know that reporting work is not as dynamic or nourishing as the direct service itself, and we do everything possible on our end to make these reports as short and painless as possible. We never ask for data just for its own sake, but carefully consider what is the most essential information to gather each month. Again, we can’t stress this point enough: filling out these Coach Reports to keep us in the loop is equally crucial to your ScholarMatch College Coach role as your student advising.
Student Check-Ins and Milestones
Students are also required to complete brief monthly Student Check-In forms, which are a shorter, student-friendly version of your Coach Reports. While we don’t require students to submit any equivalent to your Coaching Logs for each interaction, they will be asked to complete several one-time milestone confirmations, like submitting a draft of their balanced college list for review in the early fall.
We will encourage you to remind students to fill out their monthly Student Check-In forms, and provide instructions and framing for you to help your students successfully complete their milestone reports.
Tips on Tracking Data Individually
We recommend that coaches and students both utilize Google Drive,
as it is a secure and user-friendly platform to house documents in and use to track progress. However, you should feel free to track information in whatever way is most convenient and useful for you. Additionally, you can opt to have copies of every Interaction Log and Coach Report emailed to you after submission for future reference.
Effectively tracking your students’ progress will enable you to complete your Interaction Logs and Coach Reports even more easily!
ScholarMatch will also send you and your students periodic automatic email or text nudges if you haven’t yet completed a report that’s due. Don’t feel bad if we do, though! These are just friendly reminders to ensure that we have the information we need, and make sure that you keep us in the loop.
Training Module 5A Assignment
To finish this training module, please complete the mastery assignment linked below.