Academic Advisor, or Academic Coach?

Aren’t Academic Coaches and Academic Advisors the Same?

Many students hear “academic coaching” and think “academic advising,” and it’s true, the terms are similar. But although your academic advisors and your academic coaches are people who can help you through college, their jobs are very different! Let’s take a quick look at what each of these professionals can do for you, the student, as you progress through your college career.

Where Do They Work?

This is your advisor.

Academic advisors work for the college you’re attending. They are employees of the college, they probably have offices on campus, and they work a regular 40-hour work week. Sometimes tenure-track faculty have advising responsibilities, but it varies from school to school. Sometimes the advisors work completely as advisors, with no faculty responsibilities.

Academic coaches, on the other hand, are usually independent businesspeople who contract with individual students to provide academic help with college demands. They schedule coaching sessions with you once or twice a week, sometimes online and sometimes in person. Usually a coach won’t have an office. Some colleges will make coaching available to their students, but it’s unusual for the coach to be an employee of the school, for example.

What Do They Do?

This is your coach.

Academic advisors work with students to meet the college’s bureaucratic and academic-progress requirements. For example, you might visit your advisor to set up your class schedule for the next semester and make sure that it will help you meet the requirements you need to meet for your major. They’ll also help you navigate the various requirements the college has for getting into different classes – prerequisites or test scores, for example.

Academic coaches work with students to meet the college’s demands around skill sets and cultural knowledge, such as how to approach professors or how to handle time management and scheduling work once you’re enrolled in classes. They’ll help you figure out how to make the best use of your time, learn how to study effectively, and break down big projects into manageable tasks.

What Results Do They Produce?

Academic advisors work to make sure that you can get through college within the four or five years that you’re allowed for your major. They’ll help you with re-taking a course, or how to handle the incomplete you needed when you got sick in your second year. Their job is to make sure you hit the bureaucratic targets the college determined for your major, including the number of units you complete each year and getting done with particular courses that are required for your major. When they’re done with their job, you will have checked off every bureaucratic box and they can certify that you’re ready to graduate.

Academic coaches work to make sure that you can build the skill sets you need to get through college in those four or five years. They help you build resilience, figure out how to get past your mistakes, and set goals – both big ones and small ones. They’re there to nudge you along when you get tired, bored, or distracted, and to help you learn to eventually get along without them. When they’re done with their job, you will have learned more than just your course content – you’ll have learned skills that will help you even after you finish college.


Both academic advisors and academic coaches are invested in your success. Coaching helps you build the skills you need to succeed and thrive, while advising keeps you on the path to success and helps you meet every administrative requirement. If you really want to succeed in college, meet your advisor in the first week and develop a relationship with them, so that they know who you are – and then get a coach to help you get started and keep going to meet your goals!

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