Getting selected for study at University or college or any other higher learning institutions is just the beginning of student life in campus. In developed countries, student support services are well funded so all the possible help that students can get are provided. The services might involve cost while others maybe free. The important thing is their availability. In Papua New Guinea, Student Support Services tends to be more active only when students arrive in the campus and then at the end of the year when they do clearance to return to their homes. In between, when the students are actually doing their studies, the support services are minimal and restricted to essentials. This includes, food in the mess, dormitory cleaning services, security, medical clinic and etc. which are general in nature. For individual student needs , it is up to the students to adjust, ask for help and find where to find them when he or she needs them.
Students Do Need and Support While on Campus.
As a university or college student, it doesn’t matter whether you are independent or not you will need help at some point in time during your course of study. Example, apply for financial scholarship, death in the family when you are about sit for final examinations. Sick when two assignments are due and haven’t completed them and list is endless. First year is always a chaotic year for particularly new students. You have just arrived in a total new environment and getting the know the institutional student support system can hard for some students and that includes you. So it is very important to develop some coping strategies earlier and build from it as time progresses. The common option is to rely on student friends. Mostly 2nd, 3rd or 4th year students. But remember, they are students just like you. They can only refer to a service office, process, who to see and etc but they don’t have the authority to act or provide assistance for the specific help you need. Here are some coping strategies in seeking help when you need it most.
Why is it important to be proactive? The simple reason is student life is a busy life. Classes to attend, meetings to attend to, laundry to do, assessment tasks to complete, readings to do etc. When you are busy and involved then anything more or out of the ordinary added to already hectic schedule, you tend not to hand it very well. For example, sickness gets you when you are behind in your literature view for your major assessment paper, or a test is on the next day and etc. The list goes can be quiet long. In the event you get sick, do you know the procedure to get medical attention on campus, how can you contact your course lecture to advise him/her of your sick for the test? How to get the class notes of the missed classes? How do you hand the situation?
1: Admit You Need Help.
The first and foremost step is to get assistance is to admit you need it. Unless there is emergency situation in your dormitory, people will come knocking on your door and check on you, no one is going to come knocking on your door asking if you need help with something. Whole purpose of Orientation Program for students in the beginning of first year is for this purpose. During orientation sessions, listen to the speakers and list the departments/services that they represent, contact numbers, office location in the campus and etc. Don’t think that you will get around easily when you start attending classes. Orientation is the week you should spend getting all the details of services offered at school. Example, student counselling service contact and office details, emergency security numbers, academic department administrative contact persons and etc.
2: Counselling Services Center
If you feel that your life is out of control? Are you struggling with alcohol, feeling stressed with assessments, difficulty adjusting to living away from home? Feeling depressed or etc. These things do happen to students all the time and you are no exception. In this kind of situation don’t rely on friends and family. You need professional help, Friends and family are OK on small matters but seeking professional help can help. Family members can send you money but can’t help you when you know you are not doing well in your studies because of stress, depression or sickness.
The best place to start looking for help is to see the institution’s website if it has a website. The website will list all the departments and their conduct numbers and why they exist as a section, department or unit.
3: The Clinic
The clinic maybe small and staffed by few nurses with a doctor or a larger clinic serving students as well surrounding communities. If you have an existing medical condition that needs regular monitoring such as diabetes, asthma, or other health issue, it is important to visit as soon as possible on arrival. Check the process for regular checkups, fees if any, opening hours, emergency contact numbers and etc.
4; Learning Centers
Most campuses offer some form of peer tutoring and assistance through a learning center. Check if your institution has one. The centers normally offer brief academic sessions in various topics. For example, time management, study skills, academic writing and etc. These are normally funded by the institution and can be free. If you are struggling academically, look for session topic such as “Student success”, “academic success” and etc. Sign up those and attend them. Learning how to learn skills are also important as learning the subject contents in courses.
5: Office Student Records Access
Official student records office is one important place. Normally, terms like Student Administration, Academic Affairs and etc will be used for this office. In times when you need to send to your parents, sponsors and others official student documents such as transcript, confirmation of registration, references and etc you will need to see this office. When the registration is complete and semester assessments are done, ask for this information and keep them handy so anytime a need arises, you can easily use them.
6: ICT Support
Another important place to seek help from is the ICT support office. Locate the ICT support office and ask for kind of services they offer to students. You are studying at the age of technology and tech devices like laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc becomes key mediums through which you can access the institutions ICT services such as student learning management system (eg Moodle LMS), online Library services, student email services and etc. From this office you will ask for things like:
- Software installations for student PCs
- Wifi/network access account creation
- Student email accounts creation
- Offer troubleshooting services for student ICT devices.
Also, look for any user guides pamphlets or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) sheets they might have.
7: Scholarship or Accounts Office.
If you want information on the type of financial assistance that are available to you or whether you might qualify for them for such aids. Obvious one PNG institutions now is district Members of Parliament paying for tuition fees for students that come from his/her district. If your district has sponsorship arrangements with the institution find out how you can include your name on the list of students under the district. Also ask for organizations that sponsor students in your institution and how you can apply.
There are kind hearted people who does help students who need help with fees. Ask the office if you can list yourself on the list of students who need financial assistance. So when potential sponsors can help pay your tuition fees with the assistance from the this office.
Google and online libraries have not replaced physical printed books and journals. Go to the Library and check for opening hours, access to online systems, and how to search databases for eBooks and articles. Start visiting the library early and don’t wait until your first assignment is given. If you have the library information handy you will get straight to accessing the resources than wasting your time, trying to figure out how to use them.
Getting help is not easy
Never forget that institutions operate in a bureaucratic system regardless of the type and size of the institution. So expect some level of redtape. For example, in terms of turnaround time, counter service wait time and etc or someone might not even help you at all. But if you know which office handles which kind of problems, you can avoid a lot of frustrations.
If you have done your homework and you know you are at the right office for assistance but cannot get through, here are some tips to help you.
Be persistent but patient.
For example, if a staff say something like “ I/we cannot assist you” then you respond with something like this: “Then which office can you recommend or refer me to”. If the front-line staff isn’t helpful, you can ask if you can see the supervisor or some of higher responsibility in that office. These sends the signal that you really need help.
Try Your Best to remain Pleasant.
Who would like to serve someone who looks dull and unpleasant. It’s not easy but keep in mind that having a positive attitude has a much better chance of getting someone to help you.
Use Your Campus contacts.
Ask your course lecturer, friends, professors, classmates. As mentioned in the first place, let people know you need help.
It appalling to see that the students who are struggling and need help are the ones who don’t take advantage of all the services offered in the institution. If you need help, get it sooner rather than later. Let people know you need help than keeping things to yourself and you become a victim of a situation that would otherwise turn out to help you succeed in your studies.