By Corey Fischer
Sending a child off to college can be a scary and exciting prospect. There are so many unknowns, and as a parent, you may feel very out of control. You are no longer there to see what your child is doing, to make sure he is doing work and ensure he is getting the necessary help to be successful on all fronts.
Take a little comfort in knowing that the help there is an incredible amount of help available to students on college campuses. It would be a good idea to talk with your child about the resources that at her disposal, because the fact that students don’t ask for help is often the biggest hindrance to their success.
Following are some examples of support services on college campuses. While I might site a particular college, that service is likely available at most (but not necessarily all) colleges:
- Writing Centers – Staffed by upper level students or graduate assistants, these writing centers can help students with the process of writing essays and research papers. While they typically do not proofread or edit, they do help with drafting, revising, argument structure, and other special concerns. UVA, for example, has tutors trained to help ESL students (http://www.engl.virginia.edu/undergraduate/writing/center.shtml).
- Health Services— In addition to treating illness and injuries, college health centers offer students a comprehensive program in health education and maintenance. Often the staff includes board-certified family practice physicians and/or registered nurses, and they have arrangements with local hospitals, physicians, and pharmacies to make it easier on students to seek help when needed. The University of Richmond (http://healthcenter.richmond.edu/) offers extensive programs to promote healthy living, including sessions and/or support for alcohol and drug abuse, mental and emotional health, nutrition, physical fitness, sexual health, and smoking cessation.
- Computer Help Desk—Colleges do a great job of supporting their students’ technical needs. Typically, the colleges have all students load a virus protection program on their computers, and they can often resolve many virus problems and software issues (including saving papers from crashed hard drives). The help desks don’t usually deal with hardware problems, but they can tell the student what the issue is and direct them to the best place to get it fixed.
- Academic Support Services—It behooves a college to help students be successful with their academic endeavors. In addition to academic advisors who help guide students to ensure they are meeting the core and major requirements, colleges also offer other services. Typically they have free tutoring services for students in the high risk/notoriously challenging classes. The tutors are upper level students and/or graduate students. The University of Mary Washington offers study skills workshops (http://www.umw.edu/cas/acservices/services/tutoring/).
- Support/Disability Services—Colleges try to accommodate physical and learning differences as much as they can and within reason, and some do it much better. If this is an issue for your child, it is critical that you visit the campus in order to make sure the physical plant is such that accessibility will not be a hindrance. Contact the Support Services Office prior to your visit so they can be prepared to help you and be ready to supply any documentation they need. Most colleges will provide the minimum type of services or accommodations needed in order to help the student be successful (extra time, books on tape/iPod/DVD). Others offer more comprehensive services (for example, note takers or tutors), so it is important to ask questions and not make assumptions. One of the best programs out there is the SALT program at the University of Arizona (http://www.salt.arizona.edu/about.php).
- Career Counseling—Once your child is finishing college most parents want them to find a job, or go to graduate school. Many colleges will help students compose the resume, work with them on interviewing skills, hold “dress for success” workshops, have recruiting fairs, and assist with networking. George Mason University requires all first year students to attend an informational session about what the Career Services Office offers (http://www.law.gmu.edu/career/about) and posts all upcoming career events on the school’s intranet and TVs throughout campus. They also have recruiting fairs that are specific to career/major areas such as engineering, law, or teaching.
Whatever support your college student may need, chances are the college can help. However, it is important to understand that college students are treated as adults, so generally college officials will not intervene unless asked to or unless a situation warrants action. Parents also need to know that since their child is an adult, privacy laws do not allow colleges to discuss issues with them. The student must relay information and/or give permission for the college to speak with the parents. Therefore, it is important for parents to discuss important topics with their student before leaving for college and keep the lines of communication open throughout his time at school. Remind your child that she has to ask questions and ask for assistance – and don’t assume assistance is not available just because you have not heard about it.
Written by Corey Cunningham Fischer of CollegeClarity, LLC. Corey is an independent college consultant with 20 years of experience in the college admission/counseling field. For more information, visit her website at http://www.collegeclarity.net