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First Year Success program maximizes student performance, retention

November 20, 2012

The transition from high school to college can be intimidating to say the least. To help ease the burden and increase retention, Arizona State University has created the First Year Success VIP2 Peer Coaching Program to connect new students with the resources and opportunities that will allow them to succeed at the highest capacity.

Launched in October, the program pairs a freshman with a designated coach who has experience navigating university life. Coaches provide extensive support in all areas such as academia, transitional dilemmas and personal matters. They also serve to connect this new population to resources such as tutoring, office hours, financial aid, counseling and more.

The center already is working with more than 730 members of the freshman class, and is serving more than 7,300 first-time students. Both parents and students received an email about the new offerings when the program first became available.

“Personal attention can be missed given the scale of the university. The coaches seek to establish relationships with each student, giving them the VIP treatment they deserve,” said Marisel Herrera, director of the First Year Success Center (FYS). “They are connectors, but also cheerleaders and catalysts. They will congratulate you on getting the job, passing the test or getting the scholarship.”

In addition, FYS is working in partnership with the academic colleges and schools within the university to relay important information such as the resources available to students.

Preston Lindsey, a junior in ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business, is one of the peer coaches in the center. He says that the FYS program is a great resource for all students looking to become connected with the university.

“Even students who have it all together love that there is someone here for them," Lindsey says. "ASU is a big school, which is great, but it can be hard to find answers. Students love that we’re here to provide those answers and help them figure that stuff out.”

What makes this VIP2  program unique is that each session is customized to fit the needs of the student. To enhance the experience, coaches like Sarah Harper will send a follow-up email with tools to help keep the student on the right path.

“I follow up meetings with an email that lists the things we discussed or goals for the week. One student told me that the goals I created put things in perspective and made her accountable, which she loved,” said Harper.  

As the program continues to grow, Herrera says she would like to offer niche coaching for special populations who may face unique challenges within their transition to university life. “Boot camp” type sessions based around midterms and finals are also on the horizon.

"We want to offer as many different levels of support as possible to serve the needs of the students and academic units," she said. "Our theme is, 'the right word at the right time can change a life.'"

Coaching is available in person, via email and over Skype to cut down on scheduling conflicts. To learn more about connecting with a First Year Success coach, visit