Utilizing Your Support Network

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the importance and value of campus support networks to student life

Campus Support Networks

Whether you live on campus or commute, it’s important to find your place on your campus. Institutions provide a range of student activities, and participation in these activities isn’t just for enrichment and enjoyment. Participation in campus activities has a correlation with academic success. The biggest challenge can be deciding how much time to spend on activities outside the classroom and which activities yield the greatest personal reward.

Benefits of Participating in Student Life

Eagle mascot sitting on the lap of a woman at a sports event

Figure 1. Becoming involved in campus activities is a great way to grow your support network.

How is it that becoming involved in student life can have such a positive impact on student satisfaction and academic success?

The National Survey of Student Engagement—a survey measuring student involvement in academic and co-curricular activities—shows that student success is directly linked to student involvement in the institution. Co-curricular activities include all the different activities on campus that students may be involved in—from athletics to Greek life to clubs. Survey results show that the higher the level of student involvement is, the higher student grades are and the more likely students are to re-enroll the next term. The following lists some of the many benefits and rewards that result from participation in campus and student life.

  • Personal interests are tapped: Co-curricular programs and activities encourage students to explore personal interests and passions. As students pursue these interests, they learn more about their strengths and possible career paths. These discoveries can be lasting and life-changing.
  • A portfolio of experience develops: Experience with just about any aspect of college life may be relevant to a prospective employer. Is freshman year too soon to be thinking about résumés? Definitely not! If you gain leadership experience in a club, for example, be sure to document what you did so you can refer back to it. (Keep track of your activities and experiences in a working resume!)
  • Fun leads to good feelings: Students typically pursue co-curricular activities because the activities are enjoyable and personally rewarding. Having fun is also a good way to balance the stress of meeting academic deadlines and studying intensely.
  • Social connections grow: When students are involved in co-curricular activities, they usually interact with others, which means meeting new people, developing social skills, and being a part of a community. Having friends who share your interests and can support you as you navigate the inevitable struggles of college is critical to your success.
  • Awareness of diversity expands: The multicultural nature of American society is increasingly reflected and celebrated on college campuses today. You will see this not only in the classroom but also in the co-curricular activities, clubs, organizations, and events. For example, your college might have a Black Student Union, an Asian Pacific Student Union, a Japanese Student Association, a Chinese Student Association, and many others. Having access to these resources gives students the opportunity to explore different cultures and prepare to live, work, and thrive in a vibrantly diverse world.
  • Self-esteem grows: When students pursue their special interests through co-curricular activities, it can be a real boost to self-esteem. Academic achievement can certainly be a source of affirmation and satisfaction, but it’s nice to have additional activities that validate your special contributions in other ways.

All in all, being involved in the campus community is vital to every student, and it’s vital to the college, too. It’s a symbiotic relationship that serves everyone well.

The key to getting the most out of college is to take advantage of as many facets of student life as possible while still keeping up with your academic commitments. That’s pretty obvious, right? What may be less obvious is that focusing exclusively on your academic work and not getting involved in any of the rich and diverse co-curricular activities on campus can come at a real price and even hamper your success.

Try It

Major College Resources and How To Use Them

College resources to help you reach your educational and career goals are plentiful on most campuses. Here are several campus resources to know about and find early in your college career. You may not need them right away; some you may not need at all. But you will at least find several to be vital. Be familiar with your options. Know where to find the services. Have contact information. Be prepared to visit for help.

Office Hours

Office hours are not just a time when professors are in their offices working. They are hours professors set aside specifically to work with students. Every faculty member is different. Some hold regular office hours each week; others require students to make appointments in advance; still others offer students the opportunity to chat in more informal settings like the student center or the local coffee shop. Regardless, seeking out your professor during office hours can pay huge dividends. The professor will get to know you and recognize you as a student who is interested in taking that extra step to be successful.

Professors do care about how you are doing in their class; they genuinely want you to succeed, but they will give you the grade you earn. There are people and resources on campus for you to utilize so you can earn the grade you want. Your professors are one of those resources, and are perhaps the most important. Go see them during office hours, ask them questions about the material and get extra help if you need it. … Another resource to utilize can be found in the campus learning center. … The first time I took a paper there, I recall standing outside the door for about ten minutes thinking of an excuse not to go in. Thankfully I saw a classmate walk in and I followed suit. … Thanks to that first visit, I received an A- on the paper!  –Kristen Mruk, “The Student Experience”

Advising

campus library

Figure 2. Use campus resources such as the library, but also counseling, tutoring, and advising services as they are available.

Most colleges and universities assign an academic advisor to each student. The adviser may be associated with your major. There may also be an office or department that provides advising. This advisor can be tremendously helpful in aiding you to choose a major, select the right courses, and map out your class schedule.

Tutoring and Writing Centers

Tutoring and writing centers are established for all students, and seeking help from them is expected and to your advantage. Such services are covered by your tuition dollars, and they can richly enhance performance in any area of your studies. Know where to find these centers and how to schedule appointments.

Other Academic Support Facilities

Your college may also offer academic support in various other forms: for example, computer labs with trained assistants, tutors, mentors, peer advisors, and more. You can research what kinds of special support are available and be ready to take advantage of them.

Academic Support

Read this excerpt from college counselor Patricia Munsch, as she emphasizes the importance of seeking out advisors, faculty, and others to create your own “team” of support.

As a student I utilized a faculty member in my department for semester course selection, and I also went to the department chairperson to organize two different internships to explore different career paths. In addition, I sought mentorship from club advisors as I questioned my career path and future goals. In my mind I had a team of people providing me support and guidance, and as a result I had a great college experience and an easy transition from school to work.

I recommend to all students that I meet with to create their own team. As a counselor I can certainly be a part of their team, but I should not be the only resource. Connect with faculty in your department or in your favorite subject. Seek out internships as you think about the transition from college to workplace. Find mentors through faculty, club advisors, or college staff. We all want to see you succeed and are happy to be a part of your journey.

As a counselor I am always shocked when students do not understand what courses they need to take, what grade point average they need to maintain, and what requirements they must fulfill in order to reach their goal—graduation! Understand that as a college student it is your responsibility to read your college catalog and meet all of the requirements for graduation from your college. I always suggest that students, starting in their first semester, outline or map out all of the courses they need to take in order to graduate. Of course you may change your mind along the way, but by setting out your plan to graduation you are forcing yourself to learn what is required of you.

Library Reference Desk

College libraries are staffed with professionals whose main function is to assist you and the college community in finding needed resources. Don’t hesitate to find the reference desk and get to know the reference librarians. Invariably you will learn about valuable resources—many of them online—that you didn’t know existed. Reference librarians are also educators, and they’re there to help you.

Campus Health Center

In the event that you need any health services whatsoever, the campus health center can be your first destination. Stop into the center and learn about the services offered, the hours of operation, emergency provisions, and routine health services available.

Campus Counseling

Counseling is an essential service that colleges and universities invariably provide. Services can range from life-saving care to assistance with minor concerns. Life stressors, such as deaths and divorces in the family, issues with friends, substance abuse, and suicide are just a few of the many issues that college students may experience or witness others struggling with.  Don’t take matters into your own hands. Get help! The counseling center can help you and support you in gaining solid footing during difficult times. Don’t hesitate to take full advantage of the services and help they offer.

Career Services

One of the most important purposes of college is to prepare students for a career. All colleges and universities have a career office that can assist you with many critical aspects of finding a suitable career. It may also help you find a campus job or review options for your major, help you get an internship, draft your résumé, and practice interview skills. Visiting the career office is a must for every student, and it’s worth doing early and often (rather than waiting until you’re about to graduate).

Spiritual Life

Most college campuses have interfaith facilities to meet the spiritual-life needs of the entire college community. You may find these facilities to be a refuge in special moments of need or resources for your ongoing involvement. A healthy spiritual life can bring greater balance to your student life.

Additional support centers that students may wish to visit include offices for financial aid, students with disabilities, housing, diversity, student organizations, athletics, continuing education, international students, child care, and many others. Refer to your college website or other college directories for information about the many, many services that can be part of your college experience.

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