Choosing to continue your education after an extended time away can be a monumental decision, especially with additional commitments on your plate. UW–Madison enrollment coaches give you the support you need to apply for college. They help you navigate financial aid options, your application and essay, and credit transfers, among other topics. They can also have important conversations with you about how going back to school can fit into your busy life.
We spoke to Heather Danielson and Darren Martin, UW–Madison experienced enrollment coaches, about their role and how it allows them to help students realize their full potential.
Enrollment coaches are often called the university’s “concierge.” What does the role of enrollment coach entail?
Heather: When you walk into a big or fancy hotel in which you are not familiar, it can feel overwhelming and you don’t know where to find things, the steps you are to take, hallways to go down, etc. Thankfully, there is a guide, called a concierge, who you can go to ask questions about where to find things, how to get to places, what’s the best route to the best restaurant. We are that guide to the university for any student interested in a UW–Madison Online degree. Our goal is to make this large university less scary. We talk to potential students about their options, help them with determining next steps, answer questions about the degree program(s) and provide information to help them achieve their goals.
Darren: I see myself as a guide, helping prospective students see if online degrees offered by UW–Madison will help meet their personal and professional needs and goals. If UW-Madison Online is not the best route, I will help them find the best path to meet their goals, sometimes that is at another institution.
How can enrollment coaches help returning adult students navigate issues unique to them?
Darren: We can help by listening and hearing the individual hopes, dreams, fears and hesitations about each person’s process to their college journey and strategizing how to chart the best path forward for them. Then we help map out factors such as program fit, program feel and program finances, alongside other reasons driving someone to take the next step in restarting or continuing their education.
Heather: We ask a lot of questions and based on their individual responses; we will get them the right resources. Each student is an individual with unique needs. We make sure your voice is heard.
What advice would you give a student applying to finish their degree with UW–Madison Online?
Heather: Based on listening to the student and their own unique story, our advice will be different. For instance, if cost is an issue, I might recommend only taking 6 credit hours a semester, which is about 20 hours of coursework a week. That way, they may be able to work and maybe still qualify for federal student aid.
Darren: Think about what UW–Madison and its online degree programs can do for you and your life two to 10 years and beyond.
Tell us about Badger Ready. How can an enrollment coach help students through this program?
Heather: If a student communicates that they have a low GPA from when they attended college previously, they don’t already have a bachelor’s degree, and they live in the Madison area, I may refer them to the Badger Ready program and get them in touch with Autumn Sanchez or Ace Hilliard, UW–Madison student services coordinators. This program is a means to take 12 credits as a special student to demonstrate their ability to succeed at UW–Madison. Students can then apply to UW–Madison Online with demonstrated recent successful rigorous college coursework on their application. Autumn and Ace provide high tough advising to ensure students have the resources they need to succeed in the classroom.
Darren: Students that might benefit from Badger Ready are connected with Autumn or Ace to continue conversations about their eligibility as well as what Badger Ready can do for them.
What is your favorite thing about being an enrollment coach?
Darren: I enjoy hearing the stories and motivations of prospective students as well as their desire to finish what they originally started but were interrupted due to a variety of factors. It is also so critically important to hear about barriers (visible and invisible) that may present themselves as a part of a student’s research into colleges and to find ways to help navigate around those barriers.
Heather: Talking with potential students! Helping them understand the programs and being a part of their academic journey. Many of them have stories of perseverance and have been very successful outside of the classroom. Now, it is time to broaden their network and help them prepare to earn that degree!