On the Right Track: Success Coaches Help Students Find their Passion

This story is featured in the Spring 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how Success Coaches help students discover what they’re passionate about.

When Ross Pavlovich headed south from his New England hometown of Marblehead, Massachusetts, to High Point University in 2014, he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do with his life. He was nervous but excited to begin his college career. Pavlovich hadn’t yet selected his major, and he hoped he’d find his passion once he began.

“I liked science a lot in high school because it was hands on, so I thought I’d lean toward going into the pharmacy program,” says Pavlovich, now a senior majoring in marketing with a minor in sales. “Half a semester of chemistry made me realize a science major wasn’t for me, and I was back to square one.”

It’s common nationwide for freshmen to not immediately know what they want to study. Fortunately, for every freshman at HPU, there is a mentor ready to help. This team of coaches helps students not only transition into college life, but also helps them find their way. And their passion.

For Pavlovich, that guidance came in the form of success coach Emily Long. While many success coaches help freshmen in specific majors, Long  assists undeclared students.

“When Ross struggled in his science course his first semester, we discussed his options,” Long says. “Ross worked very hard in his science class and utilized tutoring, but was still struggling.

He then made a pivotal statement: He wasn’t even passionate about biology — a major he had been considering. He was actually interested in business.”

Cue the light bulb. “Emily helped me discover my passion for business — specifically marketing and sales,” Pavlovich says. “She suggested I register for a business communications class, as well as a few general education classes so that I could determine what I liked studying.”

It’s a story Long knows all too well. “As a formerly undeclared student myself, I understand how overwhelming it can seem to have to figure out what your life is going to hold after college,” she says. “What I came to realize is that when choosing a major, you don’t necessarily have to know what your first job after college is going to be — or even what your career is going to be.”

Ross Pavlovich

When she declared psychology as her major her sophomore year in college, Long knew she didn’t want to be a psychologist. But she did know she wanted to understand people and she wanted to help people. She loved psychology, but as for a specific career, “I had no clue,” she adds. “There were two primary factors that led me to confidently declare my major. First, I grasped the concept that you need to love what you’re learning. When you’re spending three or four years taking classes in your major, you need to enjoy them — at least most of them. If you don’t love the classes you’re taking for your major, you’re not going to have passion and purpose in it. Secondly, I realized that while a major is important, soft skills — what HPU calls life skills — triumph. I knew that cultivating my skills in critical thinking, communication, collaboration and real-world application of knowledge would prepare me for a multitude of careers.”

She uses her own experience to guide her students at HPU. “I keep these lessons in mind as I encourage them to pursue their passions while also developing employability through experiences and challenges,” Long says.

They’re lessons that have also been valuable to senior Erika Larusso-Evans, a New Jersey native majoring in human relations with a minor in communications. “Emily was always so easy to talk to — and she didn’t treat me like a child. She was kind, yet she never sugar coated anything. She listened when I needed advice, then told me what she thought would be best — and she explained her reasoning. Her door was always open.”

That relationship became especially vital when Larusso-Evans considered changing her initial plan. “I always wanted to be a nurse or work in the medical field, and I was majoring in biology with the hopes of getting into the physician assistant program,” she says. “Then second semester of my sophomore year, I changed my major to human relations. … Emily made me realize that I just needed to give it a chance. No matter how busy she’s been, she always found time for me.”

Now, as Pavlovich and Larusso-Evans prepare to graduate in May 2018, they both feel ready to start their careers. Larusso-Evans has plans to work in a human relations department in a hospital setting or a pharmaceutical company.

Pavlovich says he has several prospects for a future career in sales. “I’m in contact with several companies, and I feel like I’m in a great position to have a job offer by the time I graduate,” he adds.

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