Who’s Who on Your Campus … and Why You Need to Get to Know Them
By Pam Carlson
College is a big change from high school—especially if you’re the first in your family to attend. Fortunately, there are all kinds of people on campus who can help you; whether you need academic help, financial aid advice or tech support.
Successful students take full advantage of the many campus support resources available to help. Never again will you have access to so much in one place—and most of it at no additional cost.
Here is our list of key people, terminology and resources to help you succeed.
- Academic Advisors: most schools have a career resource center with people who can help you decide on your major, develop a resume, practice interviewing and much more. It’s incredibly valuable advice—but it’s your responsibility to reach out. Education Quest recommends meeting with an advisor at least once per semester. Your advisor will know what classes meet requirements and they can help you stay on track to graduate.
- Campus Counselors: if you’re dealing with stress, anxiety, homesickness or other issues, turn to your campus counselors. Campus counseling services are confidential and usually free and provided to individuals, groups or couples. There are also Crisis Centers on campus that can help in an emergency.
- Financial Aid: advisors in this office provide information on paying for college including grants, fee-waivers, scholarships, loans and federal work-study. You’ll want to connect with them before you ever set foot on campus, to make sure you go into college with a solid plan.
- Career Services: Valerie Kiel at Texas State University calls this “the most helpful office on campus.” Kiel urges students to connect with Career Services staff early for help getting internships, learning about job fairs, creating resumes and finding (and interviewing for) jobs after college. In her article “9 Campus Resources That Every Student Should Be Using,” Kiel urges students to take advantage of these services: “you’re already paying for them, anyway.”
- Libraries: college libraries are some of the most incredible repositories of information in the world, and you’re able to access them for free while you’re in school. Don’t miss out on the opportunity—trained librarians can help you make sense of the system, and students get free access to digital databases you would otherwise have to pay for.
- Computer and IT Support: not just for campus computers, but for your personal devices, too. This team will help with tech issues, and they often offer classes on computer skills you want to learn. Trouble affording a computer of your own? Your school likely has computer labs you can use—just remember to bring paper if you want to print out your work.
- Health Services: these services are broader and more important than ever, not just treating medical problems, but also managing serious chronic conditions and promoting healthy habits. Healthy students are better able to learn, and campus health services are a flexible, low- or no-cost way to care for yourself. (This Forbes article reveals the tremendous growth in the mission, services and facilities of health centers on campus.)
- Homework Help and Tutors: many campuses now offer 24-hour tutoring and homework assistance via chat or instant messaging. Ask a librarian, academic advisor or computer center staff member about these services at your school.
- Writing Centers: you’ll spend a lot of time writing papers in college, and your campus’s writing center can help with everything from outlining to proofreading to overcoming writers’ block. Most students will eventually have to complete a thesis or capstone project and writing centers can help break this big project into smaller, achievable steps.
- Housing Services: if you live on campus, resident advisors and residence directors can be a great help. Resident Advisors (RAs) typically live on each floor and are there to help students get acclimated to campus life.
- Dining Services: everyone has to eat and if you are living on campus, your school likely requires you to purchase a meal plan. These can get expensive, so make sure you understand your options. Allen Grove’s article for ThoughtCo on college meal plans gives great advice on how to choose and understand plans. (If you’re in a financial crunch or you have special dietary needs, your school’s Dining Services office can help.)
- Disability Services: colleges are required to accommodate students with disabilities and this office offers a wide range of assistance—from note taking, proofreading and editing, to providing books in Braille, in large print or on audiotape. Disability Services also include sign language and oral interpreters, captioning services, and adaptive computer and internet equipment.
- Child Care Centers: many schools offer on-campus child care for a fee—invaluable for parents going back to college.
- International Student Services: U.S.-based students can get information on studying abroad; students from other countries can use this office to get help with immigration or visa issues, translations, cultural questions and more.
- Organizations and Activities: if you feel like you’re having trouble fitting in, these can be lifesavers. USA Today recommends students join at least one professional group (essential to developing career skills) and at least one cultural organization (to help you develop personally). There are dozens of interest groups on campus—from women’s centers to major-based groups to LGBT+ groups to adult cohorts for students going back to school later in life. If you’re a first-generation college student, search for Living Learning Communities; everyone can check out social media and campus bulletin boards for meeting notices.
- Recreational Centers: many schools offer free or affordable access to high quality gym, pool and other workout facilities. It is a great way to meet other students with similar interests and to work off stress.
- Spiritual Life Offices/Campus Ministry: get involved on campus with students who share your faith or spiritual interests.
- Student Unions: the central hub on campus. Student unions are a great place to do homework, hang out, have a snack and get to know other students.
- Security/Campus Police: studying late? Ask for an escort when walking to your dorm or car at night; most campuses have clearly labeled phones or easy-to-remember text and voice numbers.
Not all of these support resources are offered at all schools, but there is a lot of help available no matter where you are. As one Dream Award Scholar told us, the most successful college students are the ones who make connections and ask for help. As you progress through college, don’t forget to look around, reach out and ask questions!