Kate Knaul

A New Year Brings New Programs

Thrive Coaching Group Logo

A new year brings new programs and services at Thrive Coaching Group. When we formed Thrive in 2020, it was a bit of a whirlwind in combining our coaching practices and focusing our efforts. So as we start 2021, we’re excited to announce some of what we’ve developed to support you as you pursue personal and professional challenges and opportunities in your life.

Conversation Cafés

What: We hold monthly, informal conversations with participants about a topic of choice. 

When: Cafes are held on a Tuesday from 12 – 12:45 pm. Topics can be found on our website

  • On Tuesday, January 26th we’ll share information about our new programs and services. 
  • On Tuesday, February 23rd, we’ll explore the topic of self-authorship, a concept that guides our coaching practice.

College Search & Planning Program

What: Our College Search & Planning Program for high school juniors simplifies the application process, keeps you focused on what matters most to YOU in your college experience, and provides the tools and information necessary to be prepared to work on your college applications.

When: Starts Sunday, February 7, 2021

Additional Details:  Participants will have the opportunity to identify their goals for their college experience, develop a list of colleges to explore, and research college costs, which will all help inform their college applications. Students have ten, 75-minute group sessions and four, 60-minute one-on-one coaching sessions.

College Application Program

What: The College Application Program is for students who will be seniors in the 2021-2022 academic year and is designed to give students the guidance and time needed to craft strong applications for their chosen colleges. 

When: Starts Monday June 21, 2021 

Additional Details: Participants will have access to tools to help organize their application content and simplify the writing process, have dedicated time to write drafts of the required essays and application components, and receive feedback on their materials. Students have ten, 75-minute group sessions and 15 total hours of one-on-one coaching and feedback sessions. 

Job Search & Application Program

What: Our Job Search and Planning Program for high school students helps you understand how to position yourself to be seen and to be competitive in the job application process, whether you are new to the job market or currently working.

When: Starts Monday, February 8, 2021

Additional Details: Participants will have the opportunity to identify their professional goals, develop application materials, and identify networking opportunities and strategies, which will all help inform their job applications. Students have ten, 75-minute group sessions and four hours of one-on-one coaching sessions.

Individual Coaching

What: Individual sessions designed with the client. You can read more about our different areas of coaching on our website, or learn more about these specific areas of coaching: Academic, College, Career, Life, Transitions, and Organizational Coaching.

Adjusting to College Life

Male Student Working In Bedroom on computer on our values pageAdjusting to college life this year is unlike any other. Some students are on-campus, while others are at home or living off campus. College services have had to change to adapt to where students are and how they are connecting to coursework and college opportunities.

In a normal year, most first-year college kids start the year happy and excited, only to get a few weeks in and find they are struggling. It’s usually right about now that they have their first tests or papers due and they find college academics are harder than high school. The newness of being on campus and away from home is no longer there; reality is setting in where they’re having to do their own laundry, be sure they’re getting to class on time, and balancing a job with their social life and academic life.

In this pandemic year, it’s not just first-year students who find themselves struggling. And the reasons they are struggling are more diverse. In a recent article on Inside HigherEd, the author presents concerns about an increase in the number of college students struggling with mental health due to the social and economic impact of the pandemic, and the concerns students have about their education and career prospects.

As parents, sending our kids off to college is already an emotionally difficult thing to do, regardless of how excited we are for them to have this new experience. When they call home unhappy or frustrated, or asking to come home or drop out, it’s even more heart-wrenching. We want our kids to be happy and we don’t want them to struggle more than necessary.

So what can family members do to support college students in their adjustment to college life this year?

First, understand that it is completely normal to have ups and downs as students adjust to living in a new place.

No matter how much they knew where they were headed and knew what to expect, going through it can still be really challenging. It’s what’s called culture adjustment – something that we apply regularly to those traveling abroad, yet also relevant to any new environment one finds themselves in.

Source: https://davidson.studioabroad.com/_customtags/ct_Image.cfm?Image_ID=270937

In short, we often have a pretty big high when we get to where we’re going. What follows is a downward trend as we try to adjust our habits and actions because of how different or difficult things are. The curve will move up and down as students adjust to the new environment and continue to be confronted with things that challenge their identity, ways of thinking, and ways of doing things. 

A lot of times it can be really helpful just knowing that this curve is real and happens to all of us, whether heading off to college, traveling to a new country, or moving out on our own for our first job. Putting it out there and talking about this is a good first step. 

Second, listen for how your student is feeling, not just what they are saying.

It’s not unusual for students to be feeling anxious, homesick, or lonely, especially in the age of pandemic protocols and concerns. Helping them identify their feelings and accept them as normal or common is really important. Being open and having a space to talk about their feelings without any judgment can go a long way in developing resiliency. Listen, reflect what you hear from them – whether it’s directly said or not – before you give them advice.  

Third, help empower them to seek out resources without solving their problems for them.

College is often a middle ground for true independence. They aren’t at home where you can swoop in and fix things for them, but they also aren’t without any resources while they are at college. While every college is different, there are three important resources for students to know.

  • First, their professors are there to help them succeed. They hold office hours and provide their contact information so students can get the help they need. Professors can also refer students to other resources on campus, like tutoring or time management help.
  • Second, seek out the academic support center. This might be in the library, within individual schools on campus, or its own center. Wherever it is, they offer resources for subject tutoring, time management, goal setting, organizational skills, and self-care.
  • Third, the counseling center on campus is there to help students who are struggling with any number of things. With high demand, it may take a while to get in to see a counselor, but they often provide resources and guidance to get back on track. Some centers offer ongoing programming that addresses common challenges students face.

Fourth, give them space.

Once you’ve listened and you’re both in agreement with what’s going on and how they’re feeling, and once you’ve given them advice, give them some space. In most cases, you are the safe place for them to vent and release some stress. Give them a chance to address what’s going on and move on from what’s troubling them. Set a day and time to check in on what they’ve done and the results of the actions they took, but don’t hover.

When to intervene.

College students are going to make mistakes, struggle, and even fail, and they need the space to do so. But as a parent, you need to go with your gut – you know your student best. If you feel concerned about your student’s safety, if you think they are engaging in risky behavior, or they are no longer taking an interest in things they always did, then you want to step in. Begin with expressing your concerns directly to your student. If you need additional guidance, reach out to the student life office on campus. While they may be limited in what they can tell you due to federal laws, they can provide resources to you and follow their process of well-checks on students. 

Remember that transitioning to college in a normal year can be challenging enough. Having open conversations about moments in your life that were challenging to work through may open the door to your student talking about what’s going on with them. And you might find there are some great lessons learned that you can share with each other.

For more resources on mental health, including finding help:

Mental Health America – https://www.mhanational.org/


Learn more about us and our coaching services: academic coachingcareer coachinglife coachingtransitions coaching.

Getting to know your college options

College optionsGetting to know your college options

For high school students and families considering college, there are two critical things to do: (1) know one’s one interests, needs, and limitations, and (2) become familiar with colleges. Today we’re focusing on how to get to know colleges.

When you look at college websites or read their brochures, they seem pretty similar. Finding what makes them different and knowing whether or not they’re a good match for you is a little more challenging. There are a few things you can do, even these days as travel and in-person events are limited. 

College Fairs

College fairs have long been a way for students to be exposed to colleges in a time-efficient way. They are often held at a high school or community building, and they bring admission officers from a variety of colleges to one place for one day. Not only do students get to attend, but family members often do too. 

In one fell swoop, you get to meet admission officers and put your name on their radar as someone who is interested in the college. But these days, college fairs aren’t happening in person. But they are happening virtually. While not the same, they still provide a great opportunity to explore possible college options.

Check out these upcoming virtual college fairs:

Campus Visits

If you want to visit a campus in person, be sure to call in advance. First, you want to be sure they are currently allowing visitors to campus. Even outside of pandemic times, calling ahead is a good idea. Talk with an admission representative so they know you’re interested in the college. They can help arrange a schedule for you to sit in on classes of interests, have lunch with students, take a campus tour, and even have an overnight experience. While you’re on campus, you can meet with staff who can help you learn more about campus opportunities, or faculty members who can tell you more about your academic areas of interest. 

College Conversations

Talking with people during a campus visit is great, but don’t stop there. Ask your admission representative for names of alumni you can speak with, or the names of other students you can get in touch with. The more people you talk to, the more information you’ll get about the variety of experiences students have and what that means for life after college.

Check out these resources:

  • Campus Reel:  15,000 real videos, tours and experiences from 300+ college campuses.
  • YouVisit: Virtually visit 600+ colleges for free.
Take notes!

You’re likely going to explore a long list of colleges. It’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed very quickly if you aren’t being methodical about how you keep track of all of the information you are looking at. Take notes as you read college materials and websites, talk with admission representatives, current students and others. You should record what you like and don’t like, what other questions you have, and anything that makes the college stand out to you.

There are a lot of really good colleges, and while there are a lot of similarities, there are also differences. The more time you spend getting to know the campuses and the people, the greater chance you will select the right campus for you. College is a big investment, so take the time to do your research.

Ask for help

College is one of the biggest investments a family can make. Whether you’re first in the family to go to college or not, the college search and application process – and the college experience – is different now than it was even ten years ago. So it’s not unusual for students and families to need help sifting through options, figuring out how to pay for college, and making progress in completing applications. High school guidance staff members are great resources; they have resources and tools that can be helpful for career and college exploration. Independent educational consultants, like myself, serve as an extension of school staff to provide more guidance outside of school hours. 


 Learn more about us and our coaching services: academic coaching, career coaching, life coaching, transitions coaching.

Why Hire an Independent Educational Consultant

The Value of Working with an Independent Educational Consultant

Teenage Students Walking Around College Campus TogetherWhen I left the university environment to pursue my own business as an independent educational consultant, aka “college coach,” it was a move borne out of a love for helping shape future generations. I was never called to be in the classroom like my parents, sisters-in-law, or husband. But I am profoundly passionate about one-on-one conversations with others, learning what makes them tick, helping them develop new skills, and supporting them in finding opportunities to continue their learning and professional growth.

I’m particularly passionate these days about helping others navigate the path to career and college success. Students and families need help and guidance beyond the traditional school day. There are only so many hours during the day that teachers and school staff have to give. They have their own families, interests, and obligations outside of their work. And while teachers and guidance staff go above and beyond, it’s hard to sustain that level of commitment for every student.

My role as an independent educational consultant (IEC) is to serve as an extension of what the schools are able to give. I partner with students and families, helping to gather information and provide guidance in determining which college is their right investment. Academic success and college pursuits don’t happen overnight, but rather as a result of strategic goal setting, hard work, and a strong support system.

Not every IEC is the same – we each have our own areas of interest, expertise, and way of working with families. If you’re needing additional help beyond what your school guidance staff and teachers are providing, an IEC may be a good resource for you. The Independent Educational Consultant’s Association, of which I am an associate member, has some great information on selecting an IEC.

Here are a few pieces of advice as you consider working with an IEC.
  1. Consider what you need help with. Do you need help finding college options or do you just need help with college essays? Do you need help understanding how to pay for college or apply for financial aid? Do you have all the information you need, but you just need a third-party, objective voice? Or do you need all of the above? Every family is different, and so is every IEC. Considering what you need as you begin to explore prospective IECs can help you determine which person to work with, as well as which services you need and which you can forego.
  2. Get to know prospective consultants before you hire them. Ask them about their educational background, how many years they have worked directly with students, and their expertise on the things you need help with. Consider their style and approach and how this fits you. This includes how they conduct meetings, what their fee structure is, and how they communicate with you and your student.
  3. Realize that hiring an IEC does not guarantee admission to a college or university. As part of IECA, or other professional organizations, there are ethical standards that IECs annually agree to. As part of these standards, we agree to not misrepresent a student’s record, interfere with the college’s evaluation of the candidate, or make any guarantees of admission. An IECs focus is to support and guide students and families through the process.
  4. Students are the focus of the IEC. While the college search and application process is better when family members are involved, the focus of the IEC is the student. As such, you can expect the IEC to ask the student to take responsibility for what needs to be done and to put their best effort forward. It’s important that you communicate clearly with the IEC early in the process to understand how and when family members will be involved.

College may be the biggest investment a family makes. IECs can help families maximize their investment by simplifying the search and application process, providing high quality resources, and supporting them as they make the best decision for the student and the family.


Learn more about us and our coaching services: academic coaching, career coaching, life coaching, transitions coaching.

Standardized Tests and College Admission

Understanding Standardized Tests for College Admission

student stress, by cottonbro from PexelsStandardized tests have come to define US education, persisting from elementary school all the way through entrance into graduate school programs. They continue, despite evidence that these tests are flawed, and biased against students of color, English-language learners, low-income students, students with disabilities, and those who struggle with test anxiety. In the case of college admission, standardized tests have been used as indicators of how successful students will be for the academic environment of that college or university, despite evidence that high school GPA is a better predictor. 

During the spring months of 2020 when everything shut down due to COVID, so did testing.  Testing sites have either remained closed or been cancelled all summer, leaving rising high school seniors without the ability to take the SAT or ACT. The fall isn’t going to be any different. In anticipation of this, colleges and universities have been moving to test-optional for this year’s application cycle. As of August 13, 2020, FairTest – The National Center for Fair and Open Testing reported that three-fifths of all 4-year colleges and universities had moved to test-optional.

But what does test-optional really mean? Should students still try to take standardized tests? And what will happen with standardized tests once COVID goes away?

What does test-optional really mean?

Test-optional isn’t new; colleges and universities have slowly been moving to admitting students without standardized test scores. In practice, this means that students can choose whether or not to submit test scores to be considered as part of their college application. Typically, for test-optional schools, when no scores are submitted, admission officers are looking at other pieces of a student’s application. This includes their high school transcript, the rigor of the courses taken, student activities, demonstrated curiosity, and more. For these students, the college application essays tend to be even more important.

Test scores aren’t used just for admission purposes, however. Many schools use scores to determine merit awards. Schools that have gone test-optional, then, may not use the scores for admission purposes, but they might for awarding institutional scholarships. In other words, if a student doesn’t submit SAT or ACT scores, this may not impact their admission to the college or university, but it could negatively impact their prospect at receiving merit awards to attend that college.

Should students still try to take standardized tests?

The really important part of this for students and families to understand is that every college uses “test-optional” in different ways. It’s critical that as students consider a college, they speak with the admission office about how test scores, or absence of scores, is considered as part of the application review process and the merit award review process. Right now, colleges are modifying their practices, so we’re all having to double check how things are being handled.

With so many schools going test-optional, should students still pursue taking standardized tests? In general, the answer is yes. There’s so much change in what colleges are doing, I would much rather a student have the scores in case they choose a college that requires them for admission and/or merit awards.  

But taking them right now is easier said than done. Because of past cancellations, there are a lot of students backlogged trying to get into the tests. And test sites are closing because of public health considerations. So while I encourage students to pursue taking a test, I recommend it with a very healthy reminder that the test is not the most important part to getting into college or determining their future success.

Colleges and universities know it’s an extremely difficult thing to pursue right now, which is why so many have gone test-optional. So, for high school juniors and seniors, focus on doing well in your courses, and continue to challenge yourself. Find ways to explore your curiosity, and demonstrate the ability to engage in your personal and academic learning despite the challenges around you. This is what colleges will look for instead of, and beyond, test scores. It’s also what will help you be successful in college and life.

What will happen with standardized tests once COVID goes away?

There’s definitely a feeling that we’re shifting away from standardized testing in college admission, at least as a core requirement. There are advocacy and research groups leveraging their voice to work toward ensuring a more equitable and fair college admission process. The professional association I am a member of, the Independent Educational Consultants Association, recently called for all colleges and universities that have gone test-optional this year, to make it permanent and applicable to both admission and merit award decisions. The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University has called on colleges to go further and purposefully admit fewer legacy students, while admitting more low-income students, students of color, and students who’ve worked hard to pursue their college dreams, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

If you take away just one thing, let it be this. College admission is an ever-evolving thing, and every college does things a little differently than another. Give yourself ample time to explore college options, career interests, and what will be a good fit for both the student and family. Talk with the admission officers at each school of interest to fully understand what they consider in the admission decision process and the merit award process. Gathering information and using your time wisely will help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety of the college journey. 


Learn more about us and our coaching services: academic coaching, career coaching, life coaching, transitions coaching.



Our Story


Thrive Coaching Group LogoCan we tell you how excited we are to be writing this post? We’ve each had days where we weren’t sure where we were headed. Heck, we still have those days! But we are here today, in part because of each other’s ability to listen, coach, challenge, and hold each other accountable.

Our work together didn’t begin with Thrive. In fact, we’ve known each other for over 15 years. In 2016, we found ourselves in the same organization working directly with each other. It was during this time that we really got to know not just what each other did, but how we approached our work. We found that at the core, we worked with individuals to help them find their unique stories and navigate their life’s path.

In 2018, Kate left that organization and launched her own private coaching practice as an independent educational consultant. j launched her coaching practice in 2005. It wasn’t until 2019, when she had the chance to purchase a yoga studio, that her experience and passions came together in a unique space. At the same time, day in and day out, we each found ourselves working largely alone.

We are not going to lie, working alone was really hard and isolated. So in late 2019, we had independently migrated to the local coworking space in town. There, we fell into conversations about each other’s work, challenges, and hopes for our practices. And frankly, they were pretty darn similar. So we started to talk about the what ifs. What if we could have each other’s materials on hand to give to our own clients. What if we could have a referral benefit when clients go from one to the other. And then it dawned on us. What if we combined our practices?

And so it began, slowly. For more than six months, we’ve been asking ourselves and each other what’s important to each of us? Where do we want our work to be five or ten years from now? How do we get there? What we came up with is Thrive Coaching Group. Together, we draw on our individual and combined expertise to provide academic coaching, career coaching, life coaching, and transitions coaching. We do this work with individuals and organizations.

Kate brings a background of working with students and adults as they explore their career and educational interests. She’s worked in study abroad, academic success, career exploration, job applications, college and graduate school applications, and writing personal statements for competitive scholarships. j brings a background of organizational development, education, administration and leadership, and life coaching. Both have worked in, and with, organizations leading and supporting their growth as they proactively embrace their strengths to navigate internal and external challenges.

We approach our clients in a holistic fashion. We believe in the richness of the whole person. We value their strengths and identity and believe they have within them all they need to be successful. We believe that everyone has a place they belong, where they are motivated to take on challenging and meaningful experiences with others. As a result, they thrive, as do the organizations, businesses, and communities in which they learn, live and work.

We would be honored to partner with you in whatever way we can help you thrive.

Learn more about us and our coaching services: academic coaching, career coaching, life coaching, transitions coaching.