One of the characteristics that many students and their families consider when choosing a college may be the support they will receive and the connections they will make. Colleges promote the connections between faculty and students as well as the official support services they provide — both academic and social. As you looked at schools, you probably heard about students working closely with faculty both inside and outside of class. You learned about clubs and activities that promoted interactions between staff and students. All of these connections are important components of the college experience. All of these connections will help your student succeed and thrive in college.
However, student connections and support may often come in some unlikely relationships. As you think about your student’s experiences at college, and as you think about the people that your student interacts with every day, don’t forget some of the people with whom your student may have frequent contact — and who may be those individuals who provide a great deal of comfort and support, even if it is ”unofficial.” Here are just a few:
Cafeteria workers — Those individuals who work in the student dining facilities and snack bars see students every day. They often get to know students well and, if they are regulars, they notice when a student misses a few meals.
Administrative Assistants — Almost every office on any campus is staffed by an administrative assistant, receptionist, or secretary. This individual is often the first person your student will encounter when he needs to conduct business with the office. Administrative Assistants often get to know students well. They see some students frequently. They chat while a student is waiting for an appointment and often listen to student issues.
Custodians — Classroom buildings, administrative buildings, labs, gyms, and residence halls all have staff members that do the work of keeping the building running. Although much of this work may happen during ”off” hours, many students live on campus 24 hours. They often not only encounter, but get to know those people who are taking care of the space. This can be especially true of those individuals who work in residence halls and may see students daily.
Public Safety or Campus Security — Campus Security officers often get to know students well. It is part of their job.
Buildings and Grounds or Maintenance workers — Those individuals who care for the grounds of the college or who make the necessary repairs are often ever present. Your student may get to know well the person who mows the lawn, shovels the sidewalks, or unlocks the door when their key is lost.
Technology workers — Students often have computer questions or issues. They may get to know the workers in the computer lab or support center well.
Health Center staff — The staff of the campus health center has the opportunity to get to know students well — often when they are most vulnerable. Unfortunately, some students need to see the health center staff more than they would like, but seeing someone you know is often comforting when you are not well.
Mail Room staff — Many students eagerly check their campus mailboxes frequently. They often interact with mail room staff to mail or pick up packages or oversized mail.
Book or Convenience Store staff – The campus bookstore or convenience store is often a frequent stop for students. Students visit not just to buy textbooks, but for many of the necessities throughout the semester. Employees of the store may get to know students, and their purchasing preferences, well.
Van, bus, or shuttle driver — Many colleges have either an on-campus or off-campus shuttle bus or van. This may take students to local public transportation, to off-campus locations, or just shuttle students around a larger campus. These drivers may see students daily and get to know them well.
Your college student will encounter many school employees on a daily basis. Sometimes the connection between a student and a college employee may develop into a wonderful, supporting relationship. Many of the individuals who work on college campuses choose that environment because they truly enjoy working with and getting to know students. As a college parent, remember that your student has many, sometimes unlikely, sources of support and guidance. Encourage your student to remember that these sources are there and to take advantage of them.