Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.
Many students never expected to find themselves in college. Maybe as high school students there were factors in their lives that left them underprepared for college. Maybe a good paying job came along and the person went straight into the work force. Maybe a health problem kept them out of school. Perhaps an unstable home life limited the person’s options. But now, something has changed and college is in the future. Chances are that gaps in the skills needed to be successful in college will show up. Knowing and using the resources available to bridge those gaps will be important to college persistence.
Imagine life as a college student. You have signed up for a required class in the program you have selected. The professor of the class requires a graphing calculator along with textbooks for the course. You show up to class with your required materials and the calculator. The professor starts class by having students get out their calculators. You look down at the device and have no idea how to use it. The professor says that you are expected to know how to use the calculator since it is commonly used in high school, so reviewing its use won’t be part of the class. Now what do you do?
- What would your first reaction to this situation be?
- How would you solve this problem?
- What resources can you think of to help you?
- What obstacles for college success might you encounter?
- How do you feel about asking for help when you need it?
Colleges have an entire system of free resources in place to support students in a variety of ways. Students may feel pressure to succeed on their own because of the independent nature of many college related decisions. As a student, educating yourself about all the resources available at the college you have selected to attend can help you feel part of a community that wants to see you succeed. Asking for help from appropriate resources is not a sign of failure or lack of independence. Many college students hesitate to ask for help and end up in situations that could have been prevented by talking to the right person and knowing important deadlines. Learning to network is a valuable skill to develop while in college.
Community colleges are concerned about providing students with support services. Community college students are frequently commuter students who spend less time on campus than students who are in residency. They are likely to be working and have family obligations. Almost 30% of community college students are parents, according to 2014 data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (Fact Sheet: 4.8 Million College Students are Raising Children). Unstable child-care arrangements, for example, can impact a student’s persistence in college.
All of these challenges put students at risk of stopping their educational plan due to life events. Community colleges try to develop comprehensive student support systems to help students overcome the obstacles of life and persist in college. Making students aware of the support systems and how to gain access to the services available is a constant challenge. Students often struggle to match their problem to the right support service, are hesitant to ask for help, and/or wait until the problem is too big to handle. Student persistence and success is the goal for both the students and the college.
- As a student, what kind of support services do you need from a college?
- What is the best method for you to access support services?
- Have you evaluated the support services available at the college you plan to attend?
- How would you rate your social media skills?
Several different models for delivering student support services exist due to the wide variety of students who enroll in community colleges. Many community college students have multiple competing priorities (family, work, school) for their time. Student service models offering an integrated approach to delivering services make it easier for a busy student to access the services they might need. When selecting a college, how student services are delivered and how easily you could access them should be considered.
Technology has introduced more options for connecting and networking with other students and college faculty/staff. Social media, networking, email, text messages, and the college website all help students communicate with peers and college faculty/staff.
15 Key College Resources to know about
- Academic Advising
- Counseling/Personal Guidance
- Financial Aid & Scholarship Assistance
- Tutoring Options
- The Library & Librarians
- The Health Center
- Career & Employment Services
- Center for Accessibility/Disability Resources
- Multi-cultural Center
- Student Organizations
- Trio Services
- Services for Specific Student Groups
- Information Technology Services
- Faculty Office Hours
- Child care options
The language of college can complicate a student’s ability to ask for help and utilize student support services. It can be hard to figure out from the name of a service exactly what kind of help would be provided by that service. For example, what’s the difference between an advisor and a counselor? Don’t they both give advice? If counselors aren’t advisors what are they?
Past experiences may inhibit students from accessing support services. Asking for help can feel embarrassing. In high school, students primarily use tutors when they are not doing well in a subject. Students bring that perspective to college with them. In college, tutors can be a key part of a student success plan. In college settings, free tutors staff a variety of centers designed for student success. Writing and math are typical subjects where students need extra support to learn class materials and complete assignments. Students new to college may not realize the top students in their classes are likely to be using tutoring services. Tutors are like assistant teachers. Sometimes it is hard for students new to college to understand the role of tutors and let go of past notions about who uses a tutor and why. Some colleges offer tutoring services online as well as on campus. The college website is the place to find out about the offering related to tutors for the college you select.
Students with limited time to spend on the college campus may look for tutoring help online via videos to watch. Several excellent websites can be found. Also, there are a variety of apps for smartphones and tablets designed to help students. Support for student success can come in many forms.
Watch the following TED Talk by Sugata Mitra and see the impact the Internet is having on education around the world. As you watch the video, think about yourself as a student/learner and how you could find learning assistance online.
Sugata Mitra: New Experiment In Self-teaching (TED Talk)
Video link: https://youtu.be/dk60sYrU2RU
Pick 2 different colleges and examine their websites. Try to find the following information on each of the websites.
- Do the 2 colleges you selected have the same definition of advisor and counselor?
- Do both colleges offer the 15 key resources listed above? If not, what couldn’t you find?
- How comfortable were you navigating the college websites to find student services?
- What are 3 student support services you might use and how would they benefit you?
- Did the websites organization make sense to you?
- What was your strategy for finding the information you were looking for?
- What information would you consider most important to you as a student?
- What suggestions do you have for making the website easier to use?