Many students heading off to college are thrilled by the prospect of their new-found independence. Although they may be nervous about heading away from home, they are excited about being on their own. However, with this new independence comes the pressure to succeed on their own as well. One important message that parents can give their student heading off to campus is the understanding that asking for help from appropriate sources does not mean that the student is no longer independent, and it does not mean failure.
Many college students hesitate or delay asking for help for many different reasons. Some may feel the need to prove themselves – either to themselves or to family and friends. Some students feel that needing help admits failure. Some do not recognize that they need help. Some do not know how to advocate for themselves or to go about asking for the help that they need. Still others, however, may not be aware of the all of the help and support that is usually available on campus.
As college parents, you can help. One of the first things that parents can do is to help students recognize when they need help. This may mean asking the right questions and probing if you sense that something might be wrong. The second thing parents must do, however, is to help students understand that, while parents are important for emotional support, they may not be the best source of specific help for college issues. Your job, as a college parent, may simply be (although it is often never simple) to direct your student to find the appropriate sources of help on campus.
Here are eight campus resources that your student should know about and find early in his college career. He may not need them right away, or he may never need some of them. But chances are good that he may visit most of these at some point in his college career. Being familiar with them – where they are located, what they offer, what their policies might be – will mean that he is one step ahead if or when he needs them. Encourage your student to find the following:
The Advising Office – Many colleges and universities have different models for advising. Most assign each student an academic advisor. Your student’s advisor may be a faculty member, or it may be a professional advisor. Sometimes advisors are assigned by major or department, and sometimes in another manner. Most schools have some person, office or department which oversees the advising system. Your student should know where this central office is located. It will be an important resource if your student has an issue with her advisor or needs help that the advisor cannot provide.
The Tutoring or Writing Center – Many of the very best students use writing or tutoring help in college. Unlike many high schools, where tutoring is often used only by students who are struggling or in danger of failing, writing and tutoring centers on most campuses are abuzz with the most motivated and high achieving students. Your student should know where this center is located and how to schedule appointments. He’ll want to find academic help early, before he is in difficulty.
Other Academic Support Centers – In addition to the traditional tutoring or writing center, many colleges offer other types of academic support. Some offer a dedicated math lab or tutoring center, a speaking center for oral presentations, computer labs with trained assistants, peer tutors, peer mentors, or peer advisors etc. Your student should investigate what extra support is available and be ready to use everything available.
The Library Reference Desk – Although students sometimes feel they shouldn’t “bother” the librarians with their questions, most college and university libraries have willing assistants whose sole job is to help students find the resources that they need for their projects. These reference librarians have made a career of tracking down resources and are excited to help students find what they need. Your student should learn early the process for making appointments with reference librarians.
The Campus Health Center – It is the rare student who can manage four years on a campus without becoming sick or injured at some point. Your student should know where the health center is, the center hours, the policies for making appointments, services available, and the process for emergency help if the center is not open 24 hours. The last thing that your student wants to do when she is sick is try to figure out how to find help. Encourage her to locate this resource early.
Campus Counseling Center – College students today experience more stress than ever. Many college students also enter college with pre-existing psychological issues. Many campus counseling centers have reported increased use in the past few years. Your student may just need a professional ear at some point in her career, or she may find herself dealing with major psychological issues. Knowing where to find help and how to access it will be important in a difficult time.
The Career Services Office – Career offices are not just for seniors. Today’s campus career office can help students find campus jobs, determine appropriate majors, secure internships, formulate resumes, and practice interview skills. Connecting with a Career office early will give your student an extra advantage.
Spiritual Life Office – Whether this is a formal chaplaincy or a less formal office or designated person on campus, your student may want to find some spiritual support at some point during college. If this is an area in which your student has found meaning before college, continuing involvement in this area may be especially meaningful as he is away from home and dealing with establishing a new life at college.
Most campuses offer students numerous resources, but resources are only helpful if students take advantage of them. Encourage your student to locate and use all of the support that his college has to offer.