Get a Group!
(Continued from 1)
The following tips may be useful for students who have
been out of school for a few years and who are eager
to carve out a successful learning niche at a college
or university campus:
1. Take the orientation route. This
introductory segment may be offered in the form of a
campus tour, an all-day training and awareness event,
or even a credit course that stretches over an academic
term. Find out what your campus offers and enroll in
at least one of the available options. Not only will
you learn something about the institution and auxiliary
services, but you also will meet other returning students
who also may feel a bit out of place. Forming new partnerships
can strengthen your sense of belonging and allow several
students to share skills and knowledge that will empower
each member of the group.
2. Enroll in a study skills class.
If your writing is rusty, for example, sign up for a
basic writing course. Even if it does not offer course
up on those all-important basic learning skills
like reading, writing, or study habits will provide
you with greater confidence and lead to acquaintances
with peers who share your anxieties and your drive for
success. Class members often form a cohort that draws
them into additional or later classes. They often arrange
to meet for study sessions or provide moral support
to one another in the Learning Center, library, or student
center, or even by taking turns hosting the group at
members homes. Sometimes they go out for coffee
and just vent over the latest chemistry quiz or the
pending final exam.
3. Join a support group. Look for
posted fliers advertising student organizations.
These need not be for older students only, since joining
an all-student group will bring you in contact with
students of all ages. Look for an interest group instead.
There may be a group for single parents, retirees, veterans,
or another special group where you can feel at home
and perhaps exchange suggestions or ideas. Sharing success
stories and survival skills will help you adjust to
classes and learn to master challenges as you become
acclimated to campus life and schedule changes that
might include a shift in job hours or childcare needs.
4. Find a study group. Several students
can form a core group in a classroom where the subject
matter is intimidating, such as Anatomy and Physiology
for students pursuing medical careers or those in a
German language class where correct pronunciation remains
stubbornly elusive. If you are invited to join a study
group, dont hesitatejust do it! Small groups
sometimes reserve a study room in the library or a dorm,
or they may decide to meet at a local bookstore or coffee
shop to practice exam questions for a test. You will
feel more in control of the course material when you
study with others at the same level outside the classroom
rather than relying exclusively on your individual ability
to master the material.
5. Start a group. If you cant
find the group you want or feel comfortable in, start
your own! Post handwritten fliers in the students
study areas on campus or in the dorms. Ask peers sitting
near you in difficult classes if they would like to
meet and go over the assignments. (Be sure to take adequate
precautions against giving out personal information
to strangers, however.) Look for students who appear
to share your circumstances in the cafeteria who are
studying alone and ask a question a b out homework;
you may be invited to sit down for lengthier discussion.
You could even approach the instructor or a guidance
counselor for suggestions about how to find or start
a study group.
Taking the initiative may be challenging, but you can
step up to a leadership role that others will respect
and turn to for assistance when you summon your courage
by remembering that others may be looking for the same
kind of help that you desire. In the process of getting
the support you need, not only will you be addressing
your personal concerns, but you may be able to help
others who are feeling stranded in college life. You
can even ask about a study or support group before classes
begin , so dont waitfind yours now and let
the learning begin!
Debra Johanyak, Ph.D., is Professor of English at The
University of Akron
Wayne College where she teaches writing and literature.
She has published numerous articles in publications such
as Community College Week and Hispanic Outlook
in Higher Education. Debra is also the author of Shakespeares
World (Prentice Hall, 2004).