If you’re like most students, you’re pretty busy managing your classes and schoolwork, jobs, socializing with your friends, and spending time with your family. You’ve got a lot on your plate. But you’re also probably like most college students in that you don’t take advantage of the variety of resources available on your campus that can help you manage all those responsibilities, especially when the going gets tough.
This is pretty common; when I was an undergraduate, I certainly did not go out of my way to access most of the benefits that my tuition and student fees paid for, nor did my friends. We muddled through, confusing our new independence with invincibility. It’s a shame, because I really could have benefited from extra help in a few categories.
Here are the 10 most underused college and campus resources that you should keep in mind:
- Your Professors: I know from experience that students do not show up for office hours. I sit there in my office like a wallflower at a junior high school dance, eagerly perking up every time I hear footsteps coming down the hall, yet inevitably sinking down in my chair when I am yet again bypassed. Professors know that students do better academically when they ask questions about assignments and work one-on-one with instructors. If you feel confused or overwhelmed with your coursework, your professor should be your first resource.
- Your Syllabus: I also know that students don’t read the syllabus–not that this is hard to find out. Every time a student asks me when a paper is due, when the next exam is, or even what my name is (this happened just last week), it shows me that the course syllabus has not merited even the most cursory glance from that student. But there are several reasons it’s important to become very familiar with your syllabus: you can learn about course expectations, due dates, class policies, and other important elements of academic success. Don’t overlook this necessary resource.
- Campus Libraries: Librarians are such helpful people, students should avail themselves of their services more often. But according to the two-year long Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries study of how students use campus libraries, “the idea of a librarian as an academic expert who is available to talk about assignments and hold their hands through the research process is, in fact, foreign to most students. This is a shame, because many librarians at the college level have special areas of research expertise, and their knowledge is quite broad. Take advantage of this valuable store of information and talent!
- Disability Services: One of the most difficult challenges I have faced as an instructor is dealing with a student who refuses to use the accommodations to which he or she is entitled. Students have told me that they don’t want to be treated differently from other students, or want to use college as a chance to try out their abilities without accommodations. This is a form of self-sabotage, though, because students who require accommodations and don’t use them often suffer academically. Also, professors understand that learning accommodations are nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. They’re simply recognition that learning takes places in many different ways. Graduate student Ron Carr at Purdue University has worked hard to help students who, like him, struggle with ADD or ADHD. He created the campus group Boilers with Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (BADD) to coordinate information about the school’s resources and help students overcome their resistance to using the services they are legally entitled to. If you have had accommodations in the past, make sure you speak with your college’s disability or learning skills office to maintain your work.
- Mental Health Services: College is stressful; one of the most important things students can do is make sure that they take care of themselves. Yet students are reluctant to seek out the kind of psychological and emotional support that can help them weather the many changes that occur as part of college life. Just like students who refuse their accommodations, students experiencing emotional difficulties don’t access the peer or professional counselors offered at their schools. For example, Harvard University reports that “despite the variety of resources available and the warm atmosphere created by students willing to dedicate their time to help mere strangers, counseling remains a taboo and sensitive topic on campus.” It’s important, though, to recognize when you or someone you know can use a helping hand and reach out.
- Support Groups: Similarly, students don’t take part in various campus support groups, including those dealing with eating disorders, grief, and drug and alcohol abuse recovery. However, as Alabama, Birmingham researchers discovered,” Nearly one in three college students reported grieving the death of a family member or close friend within the past year. Learning to deal with grief is not easy, and students are especially and uniquely vulnerable to the valleys grief can bring. Geographic distance from usual support systems, academic demands, carefree social life and general lack of grief support make them vulnerable, and research shows grieving students are at greater risk than their peers for academic, social and developmental issues.” This means that building a support network is a crucial matter of academic and emotional survival. The best place to start finding such resources is to contact your school’s mental health center or health services for a referral.
- Campus Ministries: A student’s faith can easily be tested in the college environment; after all, college studies encourage inquiry, and students often struggle with questions of faith at this time of their lives. If your faith is important to you, seek out campus organizations where you can practice your religion and meet like-minded people. Clergy can also be a source of support for students struggling with emotional issues such as grief. Almost every college has some form of ministry available in many different religious faiths to students. For example, Lycoming College and the Pennsylvania College of Technology have an active campus ministry to “help students through [the] trials of college life.” If you are a person of faith, you may find campus ministry services a valuable support for your college experience.
- Campus Media: At San Antonio College in Texas, student Robert Medina wishes that more students were aware of the school’s newspaper and radio station, which he wrote, “are underused by most campus organizations and faculty” and “in some instances, they are completely unknown to students at this college.” He’s got a great point, especially if you are a commuter student. Not only can you learn more about what’s going on at your school, if you participate in a school’s publishing or audio/video projects, you might also make new friends, gain valuable work experience, and feel more at home on campus.
- Safety Programs: Everyone thinks they’re safe on a college campus, and traditional students are especially filled with the feelings of invulnerability characteristic of their age. When I was a student, I walked the dark paths of my campus without concern. That was a bad idea, because campuses are like small cities, and are just as prone to crime as any other location. There are always media reports of robberies, sexual assaults, and worse on campuses across the nation. At Marquette University, students have established a Safety Patrol to escort students around campus until 12 am. Yet the college’s Department of Public Safety reports that it is “the most underused service on campus.” You should look into similar programs offered at your school and take advantage of them if you feel bullied, are fearful, or need to walk to an isolated part of campus at any time of the day.
- Resident Assistants: USA Today called the use of resident assistants, college students who manage dorms or individual dorm floors, “one of higher education’s great experiments,” and described the dynamic between RAs and dorm residents as a “love-hate” relationship. Most students’ dealings with RAs are limited to the first few days of school, when they make residents play all those “getting to know you” games, or when RAs tell students to either break up the party or turn the music down. But RAs can be a valuable resource for any student, because they are hooked into the entire school’s support service system. If you are concerned about yourself or your roommate, need information of support services, tutoring, etc., stop by your RA’s room and find out how they can help you.
Remember, college isn’t easy, and contrary to dismissive statements about it not being the “real world,” it can present you with many challenges. Look around your campus, and see what’s there to help you manage any difficulties that come your way!
Does your school offer any services that students should know more about? Submit them here!