Kansas State University


K-State Parents and Family Program

Academic Coaching: The Purpose Project

The Academic Coaching program offered under the Division of Student Life, is a free resource made available to any student at any level of any degree. Students will be assigned a professional academic coach, made available to meet one on one without a limit on duration.  The notes below are thoughts from the Director of Academic Coaching, Scott Voos.

The Purpose Project

What do you want to do? Said clearly and succinct. I normally leave that statement open ended without direction to see where a student wants to go with it. I don’t mind waiting a few seconds for a student to squirm a bit. When they squirm it usually means that they know I mean business and this isn’t going to be that typical elevator chat about the weather. I have found that a lot of students simply don’t know what they want to do. A lot of students will go their entire college career without really paying mind to this simple question. That usually leads to some anxiety near graduation day and a fear of what’s next. Of course this is what college is meant for, but somewhere along the line this question is being delayed longer and longer.

So I ask it. Not meaning what do you want this meeting to be about or what are you doing later with your friends. I really want to know what their purpose here is. I’m often struck by the depth of answers I hear when the squirming stops. I find hope in the raw beauty of the answers. In this age of social media and faceless conversations, students for the most part have been trained to have a wall. Buried within them and unbeknownst to them, is their purpose or that idea of what it could be. They’ve done a fantastic job of learning appropriately to guard that and adapt to the social norms of the world. I’m not interested in the shallow talks of the temp, I want to dive down deep and find that authentic self.

Once that wall is down and the student knows I’m truly inquisitive about their interests, we can begin exploring the themes related to their purpose. Our campus offers an incredibly diverse sampling of opportunities for them. Undergraduate research, community engagement, clubs, anything. Simply name dropping these offerings usually isn’t impactful though. I will talk thoroughly through the why, what and how to get involved so the student fully understands the moment. I will challenge the student to step outside their comfort zone and to embrace the awkwardness of the unknown. Through follow up visits, we will continuously talk about their observations and weigh the benefits.

We want to help the student begin to think at that next level. Our hope is to create a new culture of cool, where it’s ok to stay after class to gather notes, or seeking a professor’s office hours is the norm and not the exception. We strive to bring out the student’s natural intellectual curiosity that has been hidden for so long.

After they’ve answered the what do you want to do, then I’ll ask “what’s stopping you?”

Leave a Reply