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How do students get assistance if an academic need arises?

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Stuart’s Answer

Hi Vanisha,

It really depends on what sort of academic assistance you need. And I'm not asking you to specify. I'm going to try and give you a sense of the resources that are likely to be available to you in college.

I've worked for about 10 years as an academic adviser, counselor, and coach at the community college level, to give you a sense of where this answer is coming from and why.

So the answer to your question is any and all of the following (and likely some other things I haven't thought of as well): advisers, academic counselors, writing centers, mathematics tutors, faculty advisers, faculty open office hours, disability support services (DSS), special programs, and the list goes on and on.

A more useful answer, really, is to know what's available on your campus that addresses whatever needs you feel you have. At a large-scale university, for instance, they might have more offices that specifically address particular issues or concerns. For instance, a university might have a special program designed to support specifically students on the autism spectrum.

A smaller-scale college or community college likely won't have something that specialized, but would instead offer support services through their DSS office, academic counseling office, etc.

I work for a program that supports students transitioning from the local high school system into the community college and then on to their chosen transfer school. I've worked for two such programs in the area, and I'm seeing more and more similar programs crop up around the country. It looks like you're in New York City, yes? I'm very confident that there will be similar programs available in your area. And not necessarily involving community college, if that's not your plan.

So there are programs that specialize in helping you navigate the transition (including applying to college, completing the administrative steps, identifying your major, etc.). But there are also a lot of support services once you're there on campus. If you struggle with writing, there will be a writing center where you can get assistance with your papers. If, like me, math is your kryptonite, there will be support centers for that.

More immediately, though, if your concerns are academic, you want to establish strong and proactive relationships with your faculty. In my experience, faculty appreciate students who speak up when they're struggling. Who demonstrate a desire to address their difficulties and work through them. So taking advantage of your professors' open office hours, asking questions after class, etc. are ways of demonstrating that you're engaged and conscientious. Show that and faculty will generally want to do what they can to help.

Then there are advisers. Depending on your program, major, etc., you might find a general team of academic advisers. You may also have a dedicated team of advisers for your major. (I used to be an intern at a local university, and the Business program there had a dedicated team of advisers specifically for its Business students.) Then you'll have faculty advisers, who are first and foremost faculty within your major or area of study, but who have also been trained to provide advising. They're the content experts versus the more generalized advising you'd get in the institution-wide advising offices.

No need to choose. Your best plan is to take advantage of ALL of these offerings. You're already paying for them, after all. They're included in your tuition.

I won't lie to you. Coordinating all of this can be a challenge. Very often, you'll need to work with various offices and individuals around campus. And that can get overwhelming. That's part of why programs like mine exist. To help students navigate the complex resources available to them. But if you can't identify a program like that, try to find an individual adviser you like and trust to help you organize your work.

Most importantly, seek help as soon as you're struggling. There's an old joke that the first thing you have to do when you're in a hole is to stop digging. It's not a very funny joke, but it is a good reminder that the sooner you focus on getting out of the hole, the easier it is. Academic problems can lead to financial aid problems, probation, and all sorts of other difficulties. So the moment you feel like things are getting away from you, seek support.

Better yet, identify those supports that you anticipate needing ahead of time, and perhaps even meet with them before you arrive.

Does that make sense, Vanisha?

Take care.

Yes thank you! Vanisha R.

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Aaron’s Answer

Hi Vanisha,

All universities usually offer assistance if you have an academic need. At my college Chaminade University of Honolulu they offer advisors in all different academic departments such as psychology who assign advisors to you starting from the time you begin to the time you graduate. They are there to make sure you are on track to graduate by making sure you are taking the right courses that meet the path to graduation and offer you recommendations when you need assistance in academic areas such as tutoring. At my university they offer a different variety of tutoring services for all academic fields from face-to-face and online tutoring. Online tutoring is similar to face-to-face tutoring but it is online involving chatting with the tutor for assistance in your academic need or using a webcam talking to the tutor similar to being face-to-face. These tutoring services are paid for by your tuition so you should take advantage of this opportunity and use it to your success. You can also get to know your classmates and reach out for assistance from them and form study groups to assist with your success in your academic career in college. Hope this helps.

-Thank you,