From struggling to Success Coaching

A peer success coach meets with a student

Peer Success Coaching is an academic development service run by the SSO to connect experienced upper-year students to individual students who are looking for strategies to improve their academic skills and reach their personal goals. These success coaches can offer strategies and resources to you and what’s more, works together with you in a collaborative learning process to personalize a plan to best suit your needs.

We interviewed Nina and Emily about their academic experiences and what it’s like to be a Peer Success Coach, and they shared their perspectives on the challenges that students face.

Nina, a peer success coachNina is in her 4A term of Honours Psychology, currently working as a Peer Success Coach. She was only made aware of the resource last year, when her professor suggested that she apply for the position. She explains that, “I looked into it after she gave me that initial urge and I realized it was with a really great team of people. I feel like it’s more helpful to go to a student when you’re struggling with something because they really understand.

I know that if I knew about this when I was in my first year, I would’ve wanted to go speak to a student, so I’d like to provide that to someone else.

Emily, a peer success coachEmily meanwhile, is a graduate student working towards her Masters in English, and joined the SSO team from her role at St Jerome’s in a similar position, “I love our team, the supportive atmosphere and the fact that they take what could be a really hard job and they make it so simple and so fun and engaging. I feel like I learn more from my teammates than anything else, which is neat because it’s helped me foster my own growth as a student. But it’s also given me more to take to my appointments too because, like I said, I’m constantly learning from the team.”

Peer success coaches range in faculty, areas of expertise and academic levels, and interested students are able to get to know the coaches from their profile online.

 “My background is a bit of a funny story, I’m actually a transfer student.” Emily explains, “So I did my first year at the University of Windsor, and because of that I feel like I had a really powerful network and support system in my hometown.  All of my friends and I commuted to school every day. We all had the same classes,

... so I never really had to learn proper study skills or time management because I had so many peers around me who were enforcing those good habits. When I came to the University of Waterloo in my second year, suddenly I was all alone and I was living in residence.

Nina was aware that she also struggled with time management but she ignored it for the most part. She shared that, “for a long time I didn’t really care because I was spending a lot of time with my friends and doing a lot of extracurriculars, which was great, but it meant that I was ignoring my studies. That became a significant stressor in my life and it came to a point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

It was something that I needed to focus on and fix and I realized it boiled down to me managing my time poorly and not prioritizing my schoolwork.

I’m at university, I’m paying a lot of money to be here, and it’s something I should prioritize. So I decided to make the change.”

Both students attribute their success to taking the time to find what works for them in a process of trial and error, and they both put great emphasis on the process of constantly learning. For Nina, she’s learning from the students she coaches, “I’m still a student, and I’m obviously not perfect, so it’s nice to be able to learn from them because they might have a really great strategy that I’ve never heard of. So being able to have those conversations we’re kind of able to help each other.”

Emily encourages all students to come visit, “regardless of what stage you are at in your academic cycle. I’m a firm believer that you can never stop improving, so regardless if your grades are in the 60’s or the 90’s there’s always new goals that can be set, and

... it’s our job to help people learn how to achieve those goals, and how to even grow past that.

They meet with a lot of students, but there’s one group the really sticks out to them, “I really love when a student prior term follows up with me and I can hear about their growth and progress,” says Emily, and Nina agrees,

“I think my favourite part is being able to work with them to find something that actually helps as opposed to just sort of giving them a lot of different strategies and they’re like yeah okay whatever, but like actually being able to get to the root of the problem and actually being able to resolve it. It’s great when they come back and are like, that worked really well for me.”

Both students “highly recommend” the service.  “That is not just because it’s my job and they pay me,” Nina laughs, “but I think it’s great, definitely worth coming.”

Emily adds that

Every student can still grow and improve and I like to think that the SSO is a place with friendly faces that can help you make that first step, regardless of what it is.


If you’re interested in making an appointment with a Peer Success Coach you can schedule one online or visit the Student Success Office in South Campus Hall.

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