Though success ultimately lies in each student's own hands, there are a number of services institutions can offer to improve outcomes, Angela Walmsley writes for evoLLLution.
Walmsley, an associate professor of mathematics at Concordia University Wisconsin, says faculty and administration looking to improve student success should consider the following:
1. Expanded tutoring services
Walmsley says many institutions already have some level of learning resource center (LRC) in place, but that they often lack critical elements or focus services on specific students. For example, some offer free tutoring only to minority students—but Walmsley argues that all students could benefit from such services.
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Walmsley further argues that LRCs should offer resources for a wider variety of common subjects, such as:
- Science; and
Once the services are in place, LRCs should make them as easy as possible to access, Walmsley says. "There should be enough tutors that an average student can get a weekly appointment... on weekends and not only during normal business hours," she writes.
2. Faculty tutoring advocates
Simply putting programs in place "isn't enough," Walmsley urges. If students don't know about the services, they can't be helped by them. For successful communication, Walmsley writes, "faculty is key."
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At the beginning of any course, Walmsley argues all students should receive information about the academic support services available for that subject.
Faculty can encourage all students—struggling or not—to use tutoring services, suggests Walmsley, since "sometimes the average or above average student uses tutoring opportunities the most."
3. Study skills courses
Walmsley argues that institutions should also offer courses and workshops that teach organizational skills.
These courses should teach:
- How to take notes;
- The best ways to study;
- Methods to avoid procrastination; and
- Other study skills students may not have previously learned.
Walmsley suggests these skills could take the form of "mini courses" or that the school could assign counselors or peer mentors to teach study skills.
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4. Mentor programs
Peer counseling can help students feel more confident their college is a good "fit" for them, which directly affects retention and success, Walmsley writes.
She also warns college leaders not to overlook transfer students when planning mentorship programs. Though they have some experience with college and might be older than freshmen, this will be their first time attending your school.
"Despite age, someone who is at college for the first time might benefit very much from having a simple support" from a peer, Walmsley notes.
5. Specialized orientation tracks
First-generation students often arrive at college less prepared than their peers. Because their needs are unique, Walmsley argues the best way to prepare them is through an orientation or specific preparation program.
Such a program should help establish expectations for college and success, Walmsley writes. She adds that it should also encourage students to discuss their decision to pursue a degree and offer data on salary information and previous graduates' success.
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6. Crisis response
Students cannot function, let alone be successful, when they're in the middle of a personal crisis, Walmsley writes. She encourages schools to go beyond simple counseling services to help students in unique situations. Walmsley recommends offering:
- An emergency contact or "Emergency Dean" to notify students' professors;
- An emergency fund; and
- Emergency housing.
(Walmsley, evoLLLution, 11/17).
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