Co-Authors: Traci Stluka, Joanna Lilley, and Jon Baker

College Support programs were designed to help students who were taking a break from their home academic institution, to experience academic success at a different school with wraparound support.  With a lot of programs being forced now to continue to provide resources during a time of social distancing, it makes it easier for programs to structurally work with clients who are returning home to hunker down with families, or who haven’t left home in the first place.

Currently, programs are still open, and college students around the country have suddenly found themselves taking exclusively online courses, unable to return to their college campus.  College students need to know about these resources. 

Prior to COVID-19, young adults would relocate to areas where these College Support Programs existed to spend a semester or two getting reacquainted to the academic environment while being involved in a strong therapeutic community.  These targeted programs exist in Idaho, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Utah, and other states. The premise is that collegiate academics are reintroduced, while staff clinically process any anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), executive functioning (EF) deficits, shame, or depression that a young adult may be experiencing.  The goal is to help them navigate being successful on a campus again, and allow them to return to their home institution, or consider transferring to another school with more therapeutic support. Either way, students walk away feeling like they can be college students again! 

Now, in the time of COVID-19 these programs are adapting and encouraging students to engage with them a little differently.

How a College Support Program can provide your college student support during the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Virtual tele-health for students and families 
    • At Northwest College Support (NWCS), college students will participate in virtual individual therapy sessions and possibly group therapy sessions.  The notion is that once the shelter in place order is lifted, participants who are local to the program will return to in-person therapy. NWCS can also provide therapeutic and family support as needed. 
    • College Excel continues to have nearly half of their students participating in private practice therapeutic sessions within the community of Bend, Oregon.  At this point those are conducted remotely but can easily transition back to in-person once the social distancing order has passed. College Excel provides the same comprehensive parent support services as they always have prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Shifting to distance programming 
    • Northwest College Support now offers a Distance Program for college students needing support, but who cannot leave home or may be sheltering in place. Students participating in this Distance Program receive regular video conference calls from our Educational Coaches who are trained in helping students organize, prioritize, create goals, find resources, and develop self-advocacy. Importantly, NWCS’ Educational Coaches provide a level of non-judgmental accountability and structure for students who may struggle with self-directed learning.
    • College Excel offers coaching remotely to current students who are at home in our housing in Bend or out of state with family.  In addition to Academic and Life coaching, they are continuing to provide coaching within their housing. This is especially important while the students are spending nearly all of their time in their house with their housemates.  College Excel has developed effective systems to provide house coaching almost entirely remotely to avoid unnecessary interaction. They continue to provide social activities for students to engage in that don’t violate social distancing practices.  College Excel can also serve a student who wasn’t a College Excel student before the COVID-19 crisis but is in need of coaching now that they are at home engaged in distance learning.  
  •  Adjusting to provide support to students who are enrolled in any college or university 
    • Prior to COVID-19, NWCS worked with students who were enrolled at Northern Idaho College (NIC), or participating in a distance program through the NIC satellite office.  Each student had already attempted college coursework at another institution. Northwest College Support developed educational and therapeutic support packages that can be delivered to any college student around the country, no matter the institution they are currently completing coursework with. 
    • As mentioned above, College Excel is well equipped to serve a student who needs coaching despite not having been a College Excel student before the crisis.  They have a structured offering that provides a motivated student the needed support and accountability to manage the demands of distance learning. For many students, they are just now realizing the challenges of a 100% distance learning curriculum at their College or University and this is creating overwhelming anxiety and stress.  
  • Online social and academic groups
    • NWCS hosts group activities such as social watch parties, live-streaming mediation and mindfulness groups, and online group study sessions are regularly available to Distance Program students.
    • College Excel continues to provide social engagement opportunities throughout each week.  These include online yoga classes from a local studio, online personal trainer workouts by another local studio, and countless games, online clubs, and more.  College Excel also provides weekly remote cooking classes to students.

Please know that your young adult doesn’t have to stumble through their college coursework alone.  Their support system is now limited or non-existent, so it’s easy to get behind and feel hopeless academically. Connecting with a College Support Program during this time can allow your young adult to thrive! 

Both College Excel and Northwest College Support are working intentionally on making sure the mental health needs of students continue to be met, and the life skills coaching department has put extra emphasis surrounding self-care, hygiene, and planning. 

Some other College Support Programs across the country include: 

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Contact Joanna for comments or questions at 970-218-9958 or via email.


  • Joanna Lilley, MA, NCC

    Therapeutic Consultant / Young Adult Transition Specialist / College Success Coach

    Lilley Consulting

    After previously working at two institutions of higher education, specifically in Student Success & Retention, Joanna hung up her shingle to provide support for the flight of students leaving colleges campuses.  She now dedicates herself to working solely with emerging adults who unravel when they land on a college campus.  Her passion and drive is to coach this population back into good academic standing, or connect this population to mental health and substance abuse treatment programs that will provide stability, sobriety, and the executive functioning skills this population needs to move forward in life.  Most of her clients are currently enrolled on campus, or those who have already left feeling defeated.  With a magic wand, Joanna supports young adults with mental health issues with their the transition into adulthood and back into higher education.  Fear not, she works with the entire family system to help them heal and grow as this is not a "quick fix."  You can learn more about Lilley Consulting by checking out the website.  You can also listen to the Success is Subjective Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or any podcast listening platform where she interviews individuals across the country who took a break during their emerging adulthood years.  This podcast is ideal for young adults or families members who are looking for hope and relief in supporting a loved one.  When not working with young adults, you will find Joanna writing or playing outdoors with her rescue pup in the mountains of western Colorado.