Helping Your College Student Find Support On Campus

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As a college parent, you want to support your college student in any way that you can.  You talk on the phone (but hopefully not too often), you send mail (students love to find something in their mailbox), you send care packages, you listen when she shares joys or worries; but there is a limit to what you can do.  In your attempts to help your student find her increasing independence and sense of responsibility, you need to help your student find and use appropriate on-campus support systems. 

Your college student may continue to turn to you for help.  Or he may feel that being grown up means that he needs to do everything for himself.  In either case, he may not be finding and taking advantage of the resources available to him on campus.  Be there for him, but help him consider who else might best help him.  Ask questions and suggest that he investigate some of the possible support available on his campus.  Here are fifteen possible sources of help.

A professor

Has your student made a connection with a special professor or instructor?  The professor of a class in which your student may be struggling is certainly a help for that particular class, but if your student feels a connection to a faculty member, he or she may be willing and able to help with other issues as well.  Encourage your student to go and talk to a faculty member he trusts.

An academic advisor

At most colleges each student is assigned an academic advisor.  This is the faculty or staff member designated to help guide your student through his college career.  Your student should feel free to contact this advisor at any time to talk about academic issues.

A professional tutor

Almost every school has some kind of learning center or tutoring center.  At most schools, use of the tutoring center is free.  These centers often have professional tutors who can help your student with his academic work.

A peer tutor

Whether formally through a tutoring center or informally through friends or contacts, a peer tutor can be a great help.  Peer tutors are students who have taken the course and done well in it.  They are often able to help students, not only because they are proficient in the subject matter, but because they have taken the course and have an idea of what the professor expects.

A writing center

Most schools have a center where students can get help with their writing.  This may or may not be attached to, or part of, a tutoring center.  Students can often bring papers to the center and get help organizing or editing their work.

A communication center

More and more schools are establishing communication or speech centers specifically to help students with speeches or presentations for their classes.  If your student is especially worried about giving a presentation in class, encourage her to check to see whether help is available in this area.

The library

Although students often do the bulk of their research on line today, the library – and its research staff – is still a wonderful source of help.  Research librarians can give students a tremendous amount of guidance about possible sources and ways to investigate topics.  Students often feel that they will be “bothering” the librarian, but these staff members generally love the challenge of researching a new topic.  Encourage your student to go in person to ask for assistance.

A student advocate

Many schools have a staff member (sometimes affiliated with the Dean’s office) who is designated as a student advocate.  This is the person to whom a student can go with a question or concern that doesn’t fit neatly into any other department.  If a student is having difficulty with a particular faculty member, for instance, this may be the appropriate person to whom he should talk. 

The career center

The career center or office on campus can be a great help to a student as he considers a major, plans an internship, prepares a resume, looks for a summer job, prepares for interviews, or searches for a career.  Many students are unaware of the breadth of services available in these offices.  Encourage your student to visit this center early, perhaps even in his first year on campus, to learn what they offer and how they can help.

A workshop

Many campus departments offer workshops throughout the year to help students.  Encourage your student to check the campus calendar for offerings that may be helpful.  Workshops may cover everything including study skills, time management, speech preparation, date rape, campus safety, alcohol education, and stress management.

A residence life representative

Residence Assistants or Residence Directors are students or professionals who live in the residence halls and are trained to help students with issues ranging from academic concerns, roommate issues, social issues, or personal problems.  These staff members are often the first to notice problems since they have daily contact with students. 

A campus ministry

There may be several religious organizations on campus or a designated chaplain.  Students can find support, guidance, comfort, and social connections through these groups.

A counseling center

Most campuses offer professional counseling to students.  Students may just need someone to talk to, or they may need serious, on-going counseling or medication.  If you are concerned about your student, encourage her to stop by the counseling center to talk to someone.  Your student should be assured that counseling centers are bound by confidentiality and counselors will not discuss their conversations with others.

A health center

If your student has any health concerns, encourage her to visit the campus health center.  Most centers are fully staffed with professionals who can provide on-going help.  Some have doctors on staff and others may make referrals as necessary.  Often addressing a health issue helps with other issues.

A friend

Sometimes your student may simply need the ear of a friend.  Ask your student whether there is someone on campus who is a friend who can spend some time helping her think through her issue.  Although you, as a parent, are there for her, sometimes students need to talk to peers.  Encourage her to pursue her friendships – by reaching out to others around her.

Although, as parents, we have served many of these support functions for our children through the years, as college parents our task is to direct our students to find their own support system.  Most colleges have worked hard to provide help for students in many areas of their lives.  It s up to the students, however, to seek help.  You can help to point your student in the right direction.

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