More and more studies (see Liz Riggs recent article in The Atlantic) point to the struggles that college students encounter; first generation college students in particular, but in my experience of working with many kinds of students, all are bound to find college challenging at some point in their college career.
What should you do when you encounter a challenge? You should refamiliarize with campus resources (remember the worksheet that had you list the resources and their location?!).
Counseling Services: all college campuses have counseling services available to students at no cost (they are part of student fees). Take advantage of this great opportunity to talk aloud about what is happening (challenges and victories) in your academic and personal life.
Academic Advising: college campuses make academic advising easy but they don’t always require it. You take the first step and do a drop in academic advising session. Most advisors will listen and provide feedback related to academic work, career questions, and faculty-student interactions. They can also typically point you in the ‘right’ direction if you are struggling.
Campus Clubs and Organizations: If you haven’t taken the time to check out the campus organizations and clubs, now is the time to do it! Get involved – if for you that means just attending something, great! Pick out an event or organization meeting to attend. You can “shop around” until you find a good fit.
Have you been dragging your feet about filling out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA)? Do not delay! Schools want the information since they need it to offer you financial aid. Financial Aid consists of grants and scholarships (free money), federal and state aid/loans, and the opportunity to receive work-study employment opportunities (money). The FAFSA wants your and your parent’s 2013 tax information, but if you haven’t filed your 2013 tax returns yet, you can estimate, based on last year’s numbers, for now, and then update your forms once the 2013 taxes are processed. Without the information in the FAFSA, the colleges you applied to cannot offer you any reliable financial aid information.
Federal financial aid comes with very specific academic progress requirements. Students must pass at least 75% of their courses each term, stay in Good Standing (not be on Academic Probation), and in some cases are not allowed to use financial aid for course repeats. Any one of these situations can trigger an inquiry from the Financial Aid office, asking for “Satisfactory Academic Progress” paperwork to be signed.
It is vital that you (student) understand all grade and academic requirements, to maintain your financial aid eligibility. Know the specifics of each type of aid (federal, state, scholarships and grants) you receive.
A recent story in The Atlantic, titled The False Promise of ‘Holistic’ College Admissions, states “applicants (students) take the admissions process personally.” As a college advisor, I found myself nodding in agreement with many of the thoughts, and research cited, by journalist Pheobe Maltz Bovy. (Article found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/the-false-promise-of-holistic-college-admissions/282432/).
Students, and parents, I, too, suggest you think of yourselves as a college applicant. Find ways to enjoy the application process, appreciate the highs and lows it takes you through, and then, when the decision emails/letters arrive, do not take rejections personally. You were an applicant, the decision of non-admission was not about you as a person, but one of you as an applicant. Following advice from Chapter Four of On The Quad, you applied to great institutions which you thoughtfully researched; celebrate the acceptances and have fun deciding where to go!
If you failed a class, or classes, during your first term, your college career is not over. See an on campus advisor to discuss what happened, ask for study tips, and make a plan for academic success this term.
Before meeting the advisor, review your unofficial transcript for your academic standing. Are you on Academic Probation? If you are, you will want to strategize ways to get into Good Standing as quickly as possible. Being on Academic Probation may have consequences within your major, financial aid, and participation in student organizations.
Meet with a campus advisor, one-on-one, as soon as possible.