Life Counseling: Helping You Help Yourself – Regent University | Team Cansler

November 11, 2022

By Jeffrey Pittman, Kyle Graham and Adam Williams

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a tremendous global impact, forcing people and all types of organizations to adapt quickly to a new reality. Higher education institutions and students unfamiliar with online learning have been pushed into new and challenging teaching and learning environments. As a result, student affairs professionals are grappling with an influx of issues that require the implementation of creative and improved student support and retention strategies. Adapting to a single change and transition is difficult, but navigating an entirely new classroom environment placed educators and students alike at a new frontier of complex life-learning dynamics. This adaptation has complicated life for students and made student affairs work even more challenging and complex, particularly in the areas of student motivation, mental health, and student success. Steps beyond traditional student counseling
Models and practices were required.

An initiative for goal setting and accountability

In response to today’s dynamic learning environment, Regent University created its Life Coaching Program. This goal setting and personal accountability initiative has helped students focus on educational goals while dealing with significant life changes and uncertainties—and equipped them for future success.

Regent University, a private liberal arts institution in Virginia, uses the Life Coaching program to help its 10,000+ students, specifically its 8,000+ online learners who make up 83 percent of the student population. The program provides highly individualized support to non-traditional students (the average age of a Regent student is 38) who are struggling to balance school with life priorities such as family, full-time work and other important life endeavors.

Professionally trained life coaches work with students to help them prioritize, manage time, and better manage stress. The focus is on getting to the heart of a problem, whether external circumstances or internal obstacles, and developing solid strategies with measurable action plans and individual accountability. Common remedies range from simple habit changes to developing a healthy mindset
achieve personal breakthroughs. Life coaching has helped students dramatically transform their educational experience. Several key approaches are used by life coaches.

Life coaching can be life changing for students who want to develop a healthy mindset.

  • Students’ life experiences are unique and they know themselves best.
  • A coaching approach validates students’ agency and ability to take responsibility for their educational experiences.
  • Deep listening to students’ core issues rather than surface symptoms, followed by powerful questions facilitates student transformation.

Institutional value of coaching

Life Coaches are professionally trained using the core competencies of the International Coaching Federation as well as institutional values. Coaches receive more than 60 hours of coaching-specific training as well as continuous development and evaluation. Students connect with trainers through an online appointment scheduling system available through the university’s student information system. Trainers and students meet for about 40 minutes per session. On average, students meet a coach two to three times.

  • Life Counseling helps bridge the gap between traditional academic counseling and psychological counseling.
  • Coaching offers multiple support options for struggling students, depending on their needs – online resources, virtual workshops, and one-to-one coaching sessions.
  • Participant growth is primarily experiential and relational and is best achieved by focusing on action plan creation and personal accountability.
  • Coaching has the greatest impact on retention for students who:
    • Part-time versus full-time
    • Middle-aged learners (26-49) and experienced learners (50+) compared to traditional students (under 26)
    • Undergraduate (minor) versus graduate
    • Online versus on campus
  • The greatest impact on student persistence from year one through sophomore occurs when students receive coaching in their first semester.
  • A coaching appointment helps, but students who have at least two, but better three appointments, see the best results. This is consistent with coaching practice and process and the “power” of three.

Tangible Impact

  • In the academic year 2021, 660 individual students were supervised with a total of 1,419 sessions.
  • Middle-aged students who were coached had a 7.1 percent higher retention rate than those who were not coached.
  • The retention rate for experienced learners who were coached was 12.2 percent higher than for students who were not coached.
  • Part-time students who engaged in coaching had an 11 percent higher retention rate than students who were not coached.
  • Students realize that their success is something they can control.
  • Numerous anecdotal reports indicate an increase in confidence, competence, positivity and gratitude towards the university.

Learn more about Regent University’s coaching program at

Where to find the item

Published in leadership exchangeVol. 20, Issue 3, Fall 2022

About the authors

Jeffrey Pittman is an Associate Professor in Regent University’s School of Education and serves as program chair for the Masters in Education in Student Affairs and postmaster programs in leadership and management in higher education.

Kyle Graham is Director of the Center for Student Happiness in the Department of Student Affairs at Regent University.

Adam Williams is Dean of Student Services in the Department of Student Affairs at Regent University.

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