Executive Functioning and Skills Coaching for Academic Success
Just Admit It!
How can high school students use executive functioning skills and practice stress management during the college application process?
In Semester 5 Episode 6 of our podcast, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor Robin (formerly at Georgetown University and Vanderbilt University), Executive Functioning Team Leader Lorenza, and Executive Functioning Coach Nicki share their top tips on how school high school students can further develop their executive functioning skills and practice stress management and self-care during the college application process. Tune in here!
By Lorenza, IvyWise Executive Functioning Coach
Managing stress often isn’t about taking stuff off a student’s plate, but rather giving them the tools to better manage their study, organizational, and time management skills.
Some students are overly stressed while getting good grades. Other students are really underperforming in class and getting low grades that do not reflect at all what they are capable of achieving academically. Sometimes, students with very high intelligence do not have some of the foundational skills that can make them successful in high school, college, and in life. What do all of these students have in common? They may need help with their executive functioning skills. They may be missing some basic organizational and study skills or they may not know how to manage their time appropriately. This is where some executive functioning coaching can come in and help students achieve their personal and academic goals.
What Exactly Is Executive Functioning?
Executive functioning is “the management system of the brain.” It is the group of skills involved that let us set goals, plan, and get things done. These skills are crucial because they permit us to do the following:
- Pay attention
- Organize, plan, and set priorities
- Start tasks and then staying focused on them until they are completed
- Regulate our emotions
- Self monitor and keep track of what you are doing
- Understanding different points of view
These skills are critical to ensuring academic success and helping students manage their workloads in preparation for more rigorous demands in high school, college and, ultimately, in a career. The good news is that these skills are all learnable. All students have the capacity to pivot and change in a new direction, for the better. They can learn the skills to help them be more successful as students and have lower stress while they go through high school and college. But it’s important to start early. Students can start to build upon these skills as early as middle school in order to prepare for secondary school and the college admissions process later down the road. A large part of executive functioning and skills coaching includes building study and time management skills.
It goes without saying that study skills are critical to helping students perform well in the classroom. But what are they exactly? Study skills refers to fundamental skills that help your student absorb information and produce required work. This group of skills include the following:
- Chunking and Pacing: Breaking down a difficult text into more manageable pieces and having students rewrite these “chunks” in their own words. It makes it easier for the student to organize and synthesize information.
- Listening With Attention and Intention: This helps the student listen out for the relevant information. Skilled learners are evaluating what they’re hearing and their own understanding of it.
- Active and Close Reading: Pay attention not merely to what an author says but to why they say it in the way that they do. Good readers can retell the main details in a story in a few sentences and they can think and respond to what has happened in the story.
- Note Taking: This can crystallize the understanding of the material and can help identify if the student really comprehends the material. We like the Cornell Method of note taking which helps the student organize the information on the page in a way that differentiates the main ideas from the supporting details.
This is a large part of my work with students as a coach – just helping them learn the study skills that will help them learn better and perform well on homework and exams. For many students, struggles with grades and coursework aren’t because they’re unable to master the content but because they haven’t fully developed the skills yet to most effectively study and learn that material. Developing these study skills can help an underperfoming student excel, which is critical to ensuring that students are ready for the rigors of more advanced secondary and eventually college coursework.
So much of being a successful student requires thinking about time. Where they need to be and for how long, what they need to do, and how much time it will take. It may feel, at times, like something that controls their life. However, it is possible to take back some feeling of control by learning how to plan. This will also help them feel more organized, not rushed, and less stressed.
Planning and learning to have good time management helps students know what to do and when, which often helps them to better accomplish the task than if they did not plan. However, planning takes discipline to make the plan and to follow through.
First, students should start broad by planning out their year. Then get more detailed by planning out their quarter, then week, all the way down to planning out their day. Students should set aside an hour a week to schedule what is due and get it out of their mind and onto the calendar. Once they can do that they can focus on working on those specific tasks that have been laid out on the calendar and adjust when needed.
How to Know if Your Student Can Benefit From Skills Coaching
It is helpful to answer the following questions to see if your student can benefit from help in developing these executive functioning skills:
- Does your student seem overly stressed?
- Do they procrastinate and start homework too late?
- Are they able to set priorities and plan their work?
- Do they wait until the last minute to study for a test or start a paper?
- Do they have constant digital distractions?
- Do they finish their homework late and miss out on valuable sleep?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, your student can benefit from help to strengthen their study and executive functioning skills. At IvyWise, we can design a plan that is personalized and flexible, and targeted to your student’s individual area of struggle.
As I said before, all of these skills are learnable, and executive functioning coaching can help you student master these skills. By being disciplined and by planning and being organized, schooling might be a little easier and your child will likely become a better student. They can be on their way to achieving those academic and personal goals in a matter that feels less pressured and with less anxiety. Change does not happen all at once, but your student can step on the path to change by building upon the foundational skills they need to succeed with simple skills coaching.
At IvyWise, we can work on those fundamentals with your student, whether they are enrolled in a comprehensive college counseling or WiseStart™ program. It is like strength training or cardio work before you start training for a sport. The more the students put in, the more results we see. We will work to give your student a sense of agency, to learn how to craft a plan and to become the author of that plan. We can become a team your student can count on – with clear goals, a known plan and a path to academic success that feels achievable. For more information on our executive functioning and skills coaching for students of all ages, contact us today.