With mid-term fast approaching, students are beginning to feel a significant amount of weight on their shoulders. Also faced with serious problems, such as health concerns and financial aid, some are struggling with the decision on whether or not to drop their classes or even withdraw from the university altogether.
Dr. Eric Gumm, registrar and director of the First-Year Program and Academic Development, has said that a lot of the troubles that students face can be attributed to time-management, health problems and not doing well in major-specific classes.
Time-management troubles arise when students try to overload themselves with heavy coursework, such as taking too many credit hours, and then trying to balance a job on top of that. First year students may also realize they have invested too much time socializing and need to focus more on academics, Gumm said.
Health concerns also affect several students each semester. Medical difficulties where students need to receive treatment or assist family members are common, but mental health is also important to factor in. Serious depression, significant anxiety, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts all make it hard to be in school, said Shannon Kaczmarek, Director of Student Advocacy Programs. The medical clinic is one of several resources for students who are struggling to turn to. Others include the counseling center, psychology clinic and marriage and family institute on campus.
For students whose major-specific classes are what are posing the largest threat to their grade point average, the academic development center’s discovery program may hold tools for success, Gumm said. The program helps students to identify their personal strengths that can connect to a potential major or career. This could help a student decide if a change of major is in their best interest. Academic tutoring in specific areas, such as math, may also be beneficial for students struggling in general education classes.
First-years who are having a tough time navigating college can receive assistance from an academic coach to help work through college level academics, Gumm said. They may also choose to take courses, such as the new UNIV 140 or Foundations for Success, that are aimed at walking students through connecting with a syllabus, utilizing a planner and navigating test types.
The first place students can turn to when struggling is the Student Opportunities, Advocacy & Resources program, said dean of Student Services and Retention, Bart Herridge. SOAR makes contact with students who have been referred by professors, staff or fellow students. Students may also contact SOAR on their own, particularly if they have had experience working with the program in the past.
SOAR has been in place for almost 2 years, said Kaczmarek, who is also director of the program. It is essentially an early alert program aimed at helping students to recover and finish out the semester. “It is a place that is comfortable and safe for students to come to find immediate resources and get plugged into support they need,” Kaczmarek said. “Our goal when connecting with students, is to hear them out, ask them good questions to really give us a sense about what is going on and then to go through a long list of things that may be helpful.” The program is open to any student enrolled, including graduate and online.
However, once a student is no longer to attend class it may be in their best interest to drop classes or withdraw as to not get Fs on their transcript, Kaczmarek said. Those who absolutely cannot pay for school and are stressed out because of tuition payments and bills may also need to consider withdrawing. It’s useless if students are taking on a tremendous amount of debt to not do well academically.
Student Services wants to keep people here who want to be here, Herridge said, but it is counterproductive to try and sway those who absolutely do not want to be here. The number one reason that students have left, as indicated on a survey given to students who have withdrawn from ACU, is due to general “fit” issues. Finding community is a way for students to feel more like they belong here on campus. Students cannot thrive in isolation and so they need to seek out places to fit in. For freshmen, residence halls are tremendous opportunities to learn social skills and form bonds that can be used for the rest of their lives.
It is important for students to know that resources are out there if they need to use them Besides SOAR and tutoring, students can also reach out to those around them. Build community and rapport with fellow students who can be accountability partners as well as professors who can be mentors, Gumm said. And keep as much balance as you can, utilizing the rec center to release energy and find friends to work together with. It is okay for students to not have everything together. Most students are going to go through something that will make life more difficult, but it is definitely encouraged that they take the time to look around and find the help they deserve to succeed in college.