You’ve made the decision to go back to school. Whatever your unique goals—whether it’s to move ahead in your current role, make a career change, or something else entirely—you know that completing a degree or certificate will help you get there.

Making your dream of returning to school a reality can, however, be more challenging than you anticipated.

From identifying the program you want, figuring out how to pay for it, and choosing your first class or classes, you have a lot of decisions to make. And you want to be sure that you make the right decisions to get started on the right foot.

Here’s the good news: you don’t have to get to the starting line on your own.

An enrollment coach can help you successfully navigate the potentially daunting process of choosing and enrolling in the certificate or degree program that’s the best fit for your goals.

In this blog post, we’ll uncover how enrollment coaching works. And we’ll explore the benefits of connecting with one as you start your journey.

What is an Enrollment Coach?

According to Daniel Wood, an enrollment coach at Harvard Extension School, “Enrollment coaches work to make sure the student is able to get the most of their education. My goal is to provide you with the information you need to make the right decisions about your school and your program.”

The process starts with a phone call. In most cases, enrollment coaches like Wood reach out to potential students who have indicated interest in a degree or certificate program.

After that initial phone call, how your enrollment coach supports you is up to you.

You may want advice on finding a program that meets your goals. You may want help choosing a first class and navigating the enrollment process. You may want to discuss how going back to school will impact your life and how you can prepare yourself for success.

You can also choose how and when you communicate with your enrollment coach, depending on what works for your schedule and support needs. Enrollment coaches can offer their advice and services via email, phone, or text—as often or as infrequently as you’d like.

Yet regardless of how you engage with your coach—and how frequently—the end goal is the same: to ensure that you have what you need to make a decision and achieve your goals.

“My job,” says Wood, “is to figure out what prospective students are looking for and what is going to make the school work for them. Because ultimately, I want each student I work with to complete their degree. That’s the best outcome for everyone.”

Six Ways an Enrollment Coach Can Help You

Is talking to an enrollment coach worth your time?

The answer is almost always yes. Here are six of the most important ways in which an enrollment coach can help you start your journey off right.

Choose the Right Program

“When prospective students are considering a school, we assess their objectives as much as we can. We want to know what’s motivating them,” says Wood.

Armed with knowledge about your unique situation, your coach can then help you determine whether a specific program is the right fit for you.

According to Wood, potential students should consider three major factors when researching a specific program:

  1. Do you qualify for the program? Your enrollment coach can help you determine if there are educational, language, or other requirements that you need to meet to enroll in the program of your choice.
  2. Does the program meet your scheduling needs? Full-time or part-time? Online or on campus? Synchronous or asynchronous? Degree and certificate offerings at Harvard Extension School offer a variety of scheduling and format options. Your coach can help you assess your availability and inform you of any on-campus or other requirements.
  3. What is the program’s tuition? Knowing how you will pay for your chosen program is the best way to ensure that you can complete the program successfully. Your coach can help you gather accurate information about program costs, including potential ancillary expenses, so you aren’t surprised by unexpected costs.

Choose the Right Courses

Once you’ve decided on a specific program, picking out your first course or courses can be challenging. It’s a big decision and getting it right is important.

“Making sure that the first class is the right one is a huge indicator of future success,” says Wood.

Wood helps students think through the various factors to consider when selecting a course.

Course schedule and format is, of course, an important consideration.

Another important factor to think about is what, if any, knowledge you already have in the subject area.

“Think about your past experience. If there are prerequisites, the course might be more advanced. Do you want to start there or do you want to start out at a more basic level?” Wood suggests.

In some cases, who is teaching the course can be an important factor as well.

“Look at the instructors. If possible, look for an instructor who seems to align with who you are as a student or what your vision of this topic is,” Wood says.

Complete the Enrollment Process

For some students, enrolling in their first course might be as simple as registering online.

For other students, the process might be more complex. It might involve providing proof of prerequisites, certain math or writing skills, or a language proficiency.

“English language proficiency can be a big issue for some students, so it is important to be clear about proficiency tests before we talk about registering for classes,” Wood says.

Once you are ready to enroll, your coach will walk you through each stage of the process, no matter how complex.

They can ensure that you know registration and payment deadlines to ensure that you don’t get locked out or dropped from your course. And your coach can be available to help troubleshoot potential problems at any point in the process.

Get Off to a Strong Start

Once you’re enrolled, your coach can help you think through the transition back to the classroom in advance, so it’s as smooth as possible.

In the weeks leading up to the course start, Wood helps his students prepare in several key ways:


Wood helps his students think through everything they need, both physically and technologically, to start class. This can range from reviewing the syllabus to ensure access to course materials to walking through the computer set-up necessary for an online course.

Study Skills

For students going back to school after a long break, bringing back good study skills can be tough. Wood helps students set up both a study schedule and understand the importance of a dedicated study space so they are prepared for the classwork once it starts.

Support Network

Wood says he likes to help students identify the important people in their lives who will help them be successful throughout the program.

“Work-life balance is an important piece of the puzzle. We all have people in our lives who will both support us and distract us, because that’s how life works. Setting expectations with those people up front is critical,” says Wood.

Identify Helpful Resources

No student, no matter how motivated, completes a certificate or degree entirely on their own.

One of an enrollment coach’s most important jobs is making sure that prospective and newly enrolled students know the resources available to them at Harvard Extension School.

“School resources are vastly underutilized, especially libraries and librarians. I work very hard to ensure that students know that Harvard Extension has a great support network and they should start leaning into that network immediately,” Wood notes.

In addition to libraries, Wood often points students to accessibility services and career services.

“And it always makes me really excited when I hear that a student has started working with the tutoring program, whether for math or for writing!” Woods says.

Navigate Unforeseen Challenges

During the first few weeks of the semester, your enrollment coach will also be available to listen to how your course is going and help you address any potential issues.

For example, if you find it challenging to adjust to the demands of the classroom, your enrollment coach can help you assess the situation and brainstorm possible solutions.

In many cases, Wood says, students—especially students who are not on campus—simply need a reminder that their instructors are there to help you succeed. He may suggest, for example, taking advantage of the instructor’s office hours (whether in person or virtual) or reaching out to the instructor with questions through email.

Finding ways to cope with unexpected external stressors can be more challenging for returning students.

“Challenges are going to come up,” Wood says. “Most of the time, the student just needs to take a step back, rethink their expectations, and figure out a way to improve their study habits. And most students, after an initial feeling of frustration, are able to work through these challenges very successfully.”

How to Connect with an Enrollment Coach

At Harvard Extension School, our goal is to connect every prospective student interested in a degree or graduate certificate with an enrollment coach who will help them determine whether Harvard Extension is the right fit.

If you are interested in a degree or certificate program at Harvard Extension School, complete a Request for Information form indicating which program has sparked your interest.

One of our enrollment coaches will contact you to start the process of helping you start the important next phase in your life: going back to school to continue along your journey of lifelong learning.