Campus Support Every First-Year College Student Should Use

It is an understatement to say that the transition to college-level academic work can be challenging for many students. While campus resources can certainly help — and you should be using them — not all students know what resources are available or how to maximize them.

There are three campus resources that current college students insist incoming freshmen should be sure to use: the library, instructor office hours and student life offices. The suggestions detailed below are courtesy of students at Chicago’s North Park University.

The Campus Library

Your college’s library system may seem like an obvious campus resource, but students often underestimate the impact it can have. Mallory Coakley, a senior, describes her university’s Brandel Library as “extremely integral to my college success.”

Her experience highlights just how diverse a library’s resources may be. Libraries are not just quiet places to study. In Coakley’s case, her library “secures copies of the required textbooks for different courses, and those textbooks are kept in the reserves section so that students can check out their textbooks for in-library use for two hours.”

Coakley credits this feature with saving her hundreds of dollars, though she also recommends first asking your professors if you will need a personal copy of the textbook for in-class activities.

[READ: 5 College Resources to Slash Textbook Costs.]

Coakley’s campus library also provides online resources, including tools like Gale eBooks and JSTOR. These tools help Coakley write research papers in both her general education and major-specific classes, but with an added bonus: “Using mostly online resources for my research papers meant that I didn’t have to lug around 15 books about early opera in my backpack,” she says.

When you first arrive on campus, be sure to visit your college library and to ask for a full list of academic resources. You may be able to find this list on your school’s website.

Also keep in mind that some institutions have multiple libraries, including subject-specific ones. My alma mater, St. Lawrence University in New York, maintains three: a general library, a music library and a science library.

No matter how small your school is, the classroom does not always lend itself to deeply personalized learning. And whether you are struggling with a particular concept or looking to work ahead and broaden your subject knowledge, this is where one-on-one support comes in.

One-on-one support looks different at each college, but sophomore Chase Friel and junior Brooklyn Seals point to two universal resources: office hours and student life offices.

Instructor Office Hours

Office hours are predetermined blocks of time when students can meet individually with their instructors. In addition to clarifying class content, office hours can help you foster meaningful relationships with your professors.

Friel says office hours helped her “perform better in the classes I was taking” and “taught me how to seek help.” She says she maximized office hours “by actually going when they offered them. So many times, we skip the help that is offered to us because we think we can do without it.”

[Read: What to Ask About a College’s First-Year Experience.]

You can make the most of your instructors’ office hours by arriving with specific questions to ask.

For me, one of my earliest instructors ultimately became my adviser, graduate thesis reader and friend — and that relationship began with attending office hours.

Student Life Offices

Support can also come from sources other than your professors. Seals highlights one student life office at North Park as especially important: the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Life, or ODIL.

Seals describes ODIL as “a community built on trust and mutual respect.” She says office staff have “contributed to the student experience of so many North Parkers, including myself. Their intentionality in raising awareness for so many of the things that affect the lives of students of color doesn’t go unnoticed.”

[Read: Diversity in College and Why It Matters.]

Seals adds that the office “is a place that students can trust, which is something really special.”

Community is often overlooked as a factor in student success. But, as Seals alludes to, trust, respect and comfort must be present for college students to thrive academically and socially.

Before the fall semester begins, consider your unique needs and then look into how these and other offices and resources on campus can help you fulfill them. Your task as an incoming freshman, Seals says, is “to get involved and utilize them.”

More from U.S. News

Don’t Make These 10 Freshman Mistakes in College

12 Ways to Prepare for Your Freshman Year of College

Campus Resources for International Students

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