As one of my daughter’s first college assignments at school, she had to write a blog post about the different resources college campuses are now offering. Boy, did it open her eyes (and mine) about some of the impressive programs available. Colleges have come a long way since the “sink or swim” approach they took more than 20 years ago in welcoming new students. More than ever before, colleges offer services that can help your son and daughter learn good life skills — from writing and studying skills, to career networking as well as programs that address improving mental and physical health.
Here are five free campus resources that you may not be aware of that can provide your newly minted college students with a solid foundation on campus and beyond:
Free Campus Resources
Regardless of major, much of your college student’s success depends on strong writing skills. All of that texting and Snapchatting throughout high school probably didn’t do much for your child’s writing acumen. Not surprisingly a lot of kids arrive at college and struggle to write the more formal essays and research papers required.
Writing Centers can help. They are typically campus-run and located in a private office or library where students can get help with any type of assignment. The service is available on an ongoing basis, and designed to help students learn good writing and thinking habits that can be carried into the workforce. Your child won’t get a paper written for him or her or a guaranteed “A” but the centers do work with your child on voice, organization and content. Ultimately, the goal is to help your child stress less about tackling papers and become more self-sufficient in the process.
Math Tutoring Centers
I hated math in college and tried to scrape by with the minimum number of credits. While not all college students have to take math throughout their four years at school, math fundamentals are the bedrock of a number of courses. Similar to the writing centers, many colleges staff “math labs” with peer tutors selected by professors to provide everything from extra-help for more advanced classes to one-on-one tutoring to help students become independent learners. I would have spent all my waking hours at such a place if it was available when I was in school.
But, be aware – much like the writing centers don’t write papers for students, these centers are not a replacement for skipping classes or trying to get the homework problems at the last minute. With that said, many math labs encourage students to work on their homework with other classmates while visiting the lab. Tutors also will work with students one problem at a time to promote increased understanding of the concepts and independent problem-solving skills. Similar to the writing centers, visits to the Math lab are also free on most campuses. A dedicated tutor may come at additional cost.
Back when I was in college, I only visited the Career Services office as a senior. In contrast, one of the selling points of my daughter’s school is their “backpacks to briefcase” program that starts with career planning as freshmen. Today’s career center not only helps students find jobs but can help students select appropriate majors, secure internships and even practice interview skills. Prior to taking her first “video interview,” my daughter visited the career center to prep for the questions as well as how to manage the more impersonal bot interview format that is becoming increasingly commonplace with employers.
Many colleges offer mandatory career center classes that help students formulate resumes as well as create online LinkedIn profiles and take a professional photo for your child in the bargain. Connecting with the Career office early in your son or daughter’s tenure at school can help them get a jump on internships and ultimately job offers.
One of the best-kept secrets at many campuses is the state-of-the art fitness centers. Yes, most colleges have some sort of gym but they are becoming increasingly luxurious and more like mini-spas and wellness centers than the traditional gym of years past. Competition for students is forcing colleges to provide the more casual student athletes with extensive sports fitness centers that include everything from the latest exercise equipment to sports courts, meditation rooms, nutrition counseling and exercise classes staffed with student trainers.
Most schools allow current students to use these facilities for free with their student identification cards. These centers are a great way for your student to stay healthy while taking advantage of a gym and intramural sports leagues that may not be available at home.
As many of us know all too well, stress is at an all-time high with college students – even before they get to college. And while counseling centers used to be underutilized because of the perceived stigma associated with mental health issues, that scenario is very different now. Resident Advisors or RAs, who may live with students in a dormitory or campus housing, can provide a first point of peer contact and are often key to steering at-risk students to additional resources. Most colleges are aware that students get overwhelmed at times and offer free counseling sessions.
Many campuses also have confidential hotlines for more extreme situations from sexual assault to suicide. A good support system goes a long way, especially for first-year students. Knowing where to find help and how to access it – even if it’s just a professional listener at a critical point – is key in difficult times.
While you aren’t actually on campus to see that your teens take advantage of these free college resources, you can certainly find out what’s available and steer your offspring to these resources as appropriate. Be aware that these opportunities don’t always exist post-college in the “real world” and when they do, these services often come in the form of expensive “career consultants.” After graduation, your kids are unlikely to find so many valuable resources together in one place. By helping them take advantage of them NOW can put your tuition dollars to good use – while assisting your child in succeeding academically and emotionally.
Christine Washburn is a transplanted Midwesterner who began her career in politics working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., as a press secretary to a congressman. After meeting the love of her life in a movie theater, Christine moved to the greater Boston area and now works as a marketing executive in the high-tech industry. As the parent of a college freshman, Christine copes with the trauma of being a new empty nester by eating copious amounts of chocolate.