Jacques Steinberg

The New York Times

A Stanford University School of Education study being released today suggests that undergraduates who receive executive-style “coaching” — including guidance on setting goals and time management — are more likely to remain in college and graduate.

A Stanford professor, Eric Bettinger, and a doctoral student, Rachel Baker, reviewed the academic records of more than 13,500 undergraduates at eight colleges and universities during the 2003-4 school year, and again in 2007-8.

The researchers calculated a 10-percent to 15-percent increase in retention rates among those who had received coaching and mentoring — a finding of no small import at a moment when hundreds of thousands of students are dropping out before graduation, or taking upward of six years to complete their degrees.

For those readers of The Choice bound for college next fall, I believe the results underscore the importance of seeking out mentors early, not only among the staff of deans and counselors, but upperclassmen, too.

“The results are clear: coaching had a clear impact on retention and completion rates,” Professor Bettinger said in a statement released with the report. “And not only does coaching improve the likelihood students will remain in college, but expenditures on coaching are much smaller than the costs of other methods to encourage persistence in college.”

The data for the study was provided by InsideTrack, a company that has been a pioneer in providing students with such counseling, including at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., which was the subject of a feature article in USA Today in 2005.

The full study has been posted today on the Web site of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Article originally appeared in The New York Times, March 2011