Freshman Coaching Program

The Freshman Coaching Program is a collaborative learning program that provides mentorship and tutoring for undergraduate students with a focus on enhancing their academic performance. Graduate students serve as coaches.


Program Forms:

Freshman Coaching Program – Student Application

Freshman Coaching Program – Coach Application


Program FAQ:

What is the Freshman Coaching Program?

The program is a designed system of collaborative study groups that brings freshmen students in contact with an upper-class student that will help them understand the ways and means of study at Penn. Generally, 4 to 8 students are grouped (team) with one upper-class student (coach). The team meets with the coach weekly to discuss the work in a particular course such as physics. The intent of the program is to teach the student strategies for working with others in completing coursework, a skill that is vital to success at Penn, and one that many freshmen lack. Included in these strategies is information for conducting your studies such as a.) managing your time, b.) preparing for examinations,  c.) getting the most from a lecture and  d.) developing problem-solving skills.  In addition, the coach is a resource of information about Penn at many levels. Ideally, the teams develop a comradeship that inspires them to achieve academic success. The sessions are informal, which gives participants the opportunity to ask questions that they may have felt uncomfortable asking in the lecture. In this manner, we hope that teams will learn how to acquire all of the information necessary for their success.

What courses are being coached?

Coaching is provided in the basic freshman-level courses required in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Coaching teams are set up for the following course subjects, with each team being dedicated to one course only:

  • Math (103,104, 114, 240 + 241)
  • CIS  (110, 120 + 160)
  • Chemistry (101 ~ 102)
  • Physics (150 ~ 151)

Can I be on more than one team?

Experience has shown us that students do better by belonging to two teams at the most. It is best to join a team(s) in the subject(s) in which you feel the weakest. That way, you will be supported at your weakest point. The important thing to note is that you must be committed to the team in order for the team to be committed to you. Therefore, you do not wish to overextend your commitments and should treat your participation in this activity accordingly.

How much of my time will this take?

The exact amount of time per week will vary depending on the decisions made by the team. However, it is expected that the teams will meet from 2 to 4 hours per week. It should be scheduled like an extra class or two per week.  Since it is informal, you have more control over what occurs during the session.

What type of preparation is required for a coaching session?

As a coaching participant, you will be expected to share in the responsibilities of your team. You should come to the session prepared to discuss the pending assignments and questions about lecture material. This means that you have to keep up, and that is another asset of the program. You are working as a team. If you understand a concept, you can share that understanding. As a bottom-line expectation, coaching requires that you are serious about your participation, which means that you attend your team meetings and contribute as much as you can.

What if I do not like my team or coach?

That is one of the reasons why we have a coordinator whom you should get to know. It is the coordinator’s responsibility to ensure your comfort with your team assignment. You may be reassigned if your situation is unacceptable to you.  However, you must take the initiative and approach the coordinator with your concerns.

What if I change my mind about participating?

That is perfectly acceptable. However, you cannot continue to change your mind indefinitely. If you decide that participation in the program is not comfortable for you, then you have the option to withdraw. Be advised that tutoring at the university is available on a one-on-one basis, which may be more suited to your style. However, there may be a fee required for the service. It only costs you time and effort to be in this cohort. Nevertheless, it takes consistent effort to develop the rapport needed in the coaching program, and interruptions are detrimental to this development. Therefore, you are encouraged to incorporate coaching into your routine and not for emergencies only.

Are all the freshmen in the coaching program?

Unfortunately, the resources to coach all freshmen are not available at this time. Also, not all freshmen desire to be in the program. There is certainly no penalty assigned to a student who chooses not to participate in the program. Due to limited resources, we invite the students that we feel can best benefit from this type of program. Why? Because we have recognized that the majority of freshmen that come into the School of Engineering and Applied Science experience certain communication gaps with the university. By the nature of students’ backgrounds, some gaps are bigger than others. Coaching attempts to prevent those gaps from widening and to eventually close them. One thing you need to do quickly at Penn is understand what is going on!

What do I stand to gain from my participation?

First, you will meet some fairly neat people that you may not have the opportunity to connect with otherwise. You will more than likely perform better academically than if you did not participate. You will be able to find out more things about Penn sooner rather than later. Most of all, we hope that you will get a good start that can lead to a very productive and enriching experience from your college years.

How difficult will it be during my first year at Penn?

One thing that you must realize as a freshman at Penn is that you are new to an old way of doing things. You were accepted here and to other colleges based on past performances in a scheme to which you were very accustomed. Now the scheme is changing, and you cannot depend on your past performance to see you through all the time. We know that you have what it takes to be successful at Penn, but you will have to adapt to new methods and attitudes. However, we do not know if you will have little or great difficulty in your first year. Coaching does not guarantee that you will not have any difficulty. Coaching is simply one of many mechanisms here at Penn to help you be as successful as possible. We want you to succeed!

Reflections on the Freshman Coaching Program:
John Cortes, doctoral student, MEAM

“I am a Coach for the Freshman Coaching Program. It has been a great experience working with amazing students; it is very rewarding. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion gives me, as a graduate student, a place that I am 100 percent comfortable in and people I can talk to if needed who will better understand my problems and struggles.”


Reflections on the Freshman Coaching Program:
Promise Adebayo-Ige (CBE’20)

“In my first year at Penn, the Office acted as a huge support system. It’s nice to have people in engineering that always check in on you and care about how you are doing. In addition to that, the Freshman Coaching Program was huge in helping me become accustomed to academics at Penn. I decided to participate in this program because I wanted help studying for my first round of midterms. I soon realized that the help I was getting here was better than any help I could get elsewhere. I gained a better understanding of the subjects I was learning and I also saw improvements in my test scores.”

For questions, contact:

Dr. Yulanda Essoka
Associate Director and Coaching Coordinator
Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
211 Towne Building
P: 215-898-7084

Sponsored by NSF/LSAMP and Penn Engineering.