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Getting Advice – Where do You Start?

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If you have a problem or a situation, if you are unhappy or need some advice, you really should not sit and stew or wait too long. You are not on your own at any college. People are on campus who can help, and you don’t have to limit your resources for advice and help to just friends. They are a great resource, but being on a campus gives you scores of professional resources that will help you deal with all sorts of problems. You’re paying tuition; why not take advantage of the services offered?

 How do you get started?

General problems: A good place to begin seeking out advice or getting some help is to start in your dorm. On your floor, in your wing, there is usually a Resident Assistant (RA). This is a student, a peer, and someone who knows the campus, the student culture, and whose experience isn’t too far removed from your own. This person has also received training and is getting on-going instruction in how to steer students like you, and there are many, in the right direction. Your RA is a good resource.

 

Of course, it may happen that your situation is embarrassing or your RA is too close to you, perhaps even involved in the situation. It could also be the RA is not responsive. There is a next step to take. In your dorm or in your dorm complex there will likely be a Residence Director (RD). The RD, usually a graduate student, is intimate with the college and can certainly give you advice or help.

Academic problems: The first line to enter for academic solutions probably leads to a faculty member or your academic adviser. A faculty member can help if you are having problems in your course. A faculty member can go over problems one-on-one or suggest out-of-class teaching materials. S/he can also refer you to an on-campus tutoring service or suggest peer tutors, or faculty may offer extra credit. It is best if you have personal or family problems that you share these with your professor. S/he can help you arrange alternate testing dates, extra time for exams, make-up work, etc. before things snowball.

Your academic adviser can help with broader concerns you may have. Advisors can help you sequence courses correctly, suggest the level of difficulty of classes for you, and recommend how many credits you should take in one semester. Sometimes s/he might even help you get into classes you have been shut out of.

Out-of-class problems: The Dean of Students or a dean from Student Affairs can usually help to point you to any need you might have beyond the classroom. For example, you might need an entrée to a student organization or services for medical problems. They can also help with academic problems to a degree, such as dealing with multiple final exams scheduled in one day. Student Affairs is a clearing house of student resources, and they are well-equipped to refer you to the right place for help.

Conduct or discipline problems: This is an area you do not want to have trouble with, but you never know. The deans in Student Affairs can help here, too, and often there is a conduct officer who might assist you with Public Safety or a campus police department. One thing you should be aware of is that you do not need to go immediately to a lawyer. In fact, on larger campuses, Student Government organizations may retain a lawyer’s services for the student body, and you can get free legal advice.

Personal problems: Personal problems are various and sundry. They might range from drug dependency to a sexual identity crisis to depression. You can generally count on a counseling center on your campus. Here you will find an individual counselor or a group that you can talk to.

Specialized problems: You may have a very specific problem. In this case, you’re lucky to have put your finger on it right away, and now you can take it directly to a specific resource area. That might be the student aid office or the campus health center.

Remember your college handbook or college catalogue in situations like these. The college handbook and catalogue are either in print or on-line. Consult them. With a read through you can get a sense of what’s out there to help you, where a resource is located, and what the telephone or email contact is. Let your fingers do the walking. You are not alone, and there is a lot offered on campuses, for free.