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The transition from high school to college can be a scary one—you’re suddenly in charge of taking care of yourself, managing your studies, and figuring out a career path. But don’t worry—it’s not all on you. You might not be aware, but most colleges offer vital on-campus services designed to help you be healthy, resilient, and successful. Read on to find out what else is included with a college education.

Free stuff for students

The best part about college resources: they’re usually available for free or at a low cost. And that’s a major deal for the 90 percent of you who say you’re concerned about the cost of college, according to a recent Student Health 101 survey. Of course, a gym membership, counseling, and so on are not literally free; their costs are covered by your tuition. If you don’t use them, you’re not getting what you’re paying for. In a recent survey by Student Health 101, more than three out of four high school students said this is even more reason to access these services. If you wait until after you’ve graduated to learn yoga or get professional help with your anxiety, it will likely be costly.

How to know what you’ll have

The availability of resources at any given school depends on various factors. Learn what’s typically available and how it can make your life easier by:

  • Scouring the college website
  • Visiting the school, attending an event, or checking out a campus publication that suggests resources for students
  • Considering a student job and other opportunities to work with campus resource centers
  • Taking a look at the orientation resources that’ll be provided to you (e.g., Class of 2020 Facebook page)

Academic tutoring, office hours, and study support

University students drinking coffee and using laptop

  • Office hours provide one-on-one time with instructors or peer tutors to ask questions or get help clarifying assignments
  • Study centers can help with time management, overcoming procrastination, note taking, effective reading, exam prep, etc.
  • Many study centers provide group workshops in key skills and specialized tutoring for different subjects (or referrals to community-based tutors)
  • Writing centers help students build college-level writing skills (e.g., via brainstorming and editing services)
  • Drop-in hours can help you find quick answers to specific questions

How it made the difference

“The tutoring center has helped me more than words can describe. I finally understand the work I’m doing, plus it’s free! I went from being an average student to being above average and helping other kids in my classes.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, University of New Mexico

“They helped me bring my essay writing up to over 80 percent grade level, elevating my writing ability from high school to university quality in one session.”
—Fifth-year online undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario, Canada

“Office hours enabled me to get additional time with my TAs [teaching assistants] and further understand the material.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland

Academic advising

  • Offers guidance around what classes to take and when in order to meet graduation requirements efficiently; this helps students get through their program more quickly and save money by taking classes in the most appropriate sequence
  • Also helps students access opportunities relating to degree goals (e.g., internships and conferences)
  • Provides support with decisions around personal goals relating to career, interests, and/or advanced degrees
  • May provide support with time management and study skills

How it made the difference

“My academic advisor helps identify a balanced combination of courses so that my course load is not overwhelming.”
—Fourth-year online undergraduate, Florida International University

“It’s the difference between passing and not passing classes, going to summer school vs. not going.”
—Third-year undergraduate, California State University, Stanislaus

“Without my advisor, I would be so lost on which classes to take when. She provides me with opportunities outside of just choosing classes to better myself in my career.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Northern Michigan University

Recreational and fitness resources

  • Free access to gym, weight room, track, pool, etc.
  • Free access to a range of fitness classes, intramurals, and club sports (varies by school)
  • Most schools allow one guest per student with a nominal fee
  • Personal training (may involve a fee)
  • Consultation with a nutritionist or fitness director (varies by school; may involve a fee)

How it made the difference

“It made a huge difference! Taking time between classes to work out helped me recharge and be ready to learn.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Guelph, Ontario

“It’s great to have free access to fitness equipment. It made a huge difference in my fitness and stress level.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Ferris State University, Michigan

“Having a gym close by is game-changing!”
—Third-year undergraduate, Queen’s University, Ontario

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Library services

  • Books, articles, and journals, hard-copy or electronic, available to borrow
  • Research assistance (e.g., finding resources, navigating databases, requesting articles)
  • Extensive online resources, sometimes including instant chat guidance
  • IT stations, including free software access (e.g., Microsoft Office)
  • Private or group study spaces
  • Loans and sometimes rentals of textbooks, laptops, and other materials (varies)
  • Specialized research resources for needs relating to disability services and other programs
  • Printing, photocopying, and scanning (may involve fees)

How it made the difference

“The library made a huge difference. It was a place of quiet where I could put 100 percent of my focus into my work. The people within the library also helped to bring my papers to the next level.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Concordia University of Edmonton, Alberta

“The friendly support of our librarians in helping me find journal articles through the library’s online databases made a huge difference in my being able to complete my research well.”
—Second-year graduate student, Arkansas Tech University

“I rented textbooks from the library, which saved me a lot of money.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Windsor, Ontario

Disability, injury, and illness accommodations and services

  • Works to create equitable support services for students with physical, psychiatric, or developmental disabilities and illness
  • Academic and living accommodations to help students with challenges related to disability, injury, and illness
  • Core services include learning plan development, exam accommodations, assistive technologies, resources in alternate formats (e.g., Braille), finding funding support, general advising, and personalized support staff
  • Transportation assistance for students with limited mobility

How it made the difference

“Disability services made a massive difference. I probably wouldn’t have made it through university without their support.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador

“The Accessibility Resource Center: The accommodations they allow for me are amazing and have greatly helped me succeed in courses.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of New Mexico

“It changed everything. I finally felt like I was on an even playing field with my peers and didn’t have to stress that my condition was setting me back anymore.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Stanford University, California

Counseling center

  • Free counseling/therapy services, confidential for those age 18+ (below that age, inquire about confidentiality law and policy)
  • Individual and group counseling, emergency psychological services, and wellness programming, including workshops and groups
  • Support with issues such as life transitions and adjusting to college
  • Support with anxiety, stress, depression, other mental health conditions, identity, anger management, body image and disordered eating, family issues, motivation, substance abuse or dependency, abuse, suicidal thoughts, and more
  • Emergency phone line and/or on-call staff for after-business hours and weekends (at some schools)

How it made the difference

“Instead of focusing on me and my problems, I took advantage of group therapy, which allowed me to be a part of other people’s struggles and hear their experiences, difficulties, failures, and losses (and have them experience mine as well). I was able to see, learn from [others], grow, and get back to living my life.”
—Third-year graduate student, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, New York

“It made a tremendous difference in teaching me valuable lessons on controlling anxiety.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, Michigan Technological University

“I went through an incredibly difficult family emergency while in a very demanding program. Counseling helped me understand and work through the emergency and also provided support when I struggled academically, allowing me to carry on.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

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Health services

  • Consultations and treatment for injury, illness, and health maintenance at the campus health center
  • Preventive health services, including vaccinations (flu shots, travel vaccines, and more)
  • Help with quitting tobacco, moderating alcohol use, recovery support, and other substance use services
  • Specialist health services, including STI and pregnancy testing and birth control
  • Care for chronic allergies, illnesses (e.g., diabetes), and other conditions, including administering injections
  • Health care providers may include physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, physician assistants, and specialists (e.g., psychiatrists)
  • Appointments are often free; tests and medications may have fees
  • Many schools offer student health insurance and/or accept other health insurance
  • Urgent care centers (cost will vary based on need and insurance)

How it made the difference

“It was so great to have assistance on campus and at such great prices for college students! I appreciate it so much!”
—Second-year undergraduate, University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire

“The health center provided me with that-day doctor appointments, which minimized the amount of time I spent out of class sick.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, University of Wyoming

“I love the free things they give out.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, California State University, Channel Islands

Career services

  • Help with internship, summer job, and co-op opportunities; application information; and guidance on making the most of these positions
  • Résumé and cover letter review and workshops
  • Assessment of career interests and options
  • Networking assistance, including connections with alumni
  • Assistance with pursuing further education (e.g., graduate school)
  • Recruitment, job postings, and career fairs
  • Exploring career options and strategy
  • Mock interviews

How it made the difference

“Using this service allowed me to apply to summer jobs, confident that my documents were professional and appealing to potential employers.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of New Brunswick

“The career advancement center allowed me to practice my interviewing skills with mock interviews and how to appropriately answer questions.”
—First-year graduate student, Midwestern University, Illinois

“It helped me a lot in preparing for job interviews and fixing up my résumé, and the facility is really great about [facilitating] different opportunities and connections.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island

Resident assistants (RAs) and peer mentoring

  • RAs provide support through a range of challenges relating to transitions and college life
  • Formal peer-mentoring programs can provide regular, structured check-ins (varies by school and student population)
  • Informal mentoring by mutual agreement can also be effective
  • Fosters connections to peers and alumni

How it made the difference

“It’s always nice to clear your head and speak to an actual person, and then be able to get back to schoolwork.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island

“RAs are incredibly important and useful. They’re the first person I go to with basically any question, and because they are older students, they can answer (honestly, too) any question that you can come up with.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, University of North Dakota

“My scholarship advisor has been a valuable resource, not just academically, but emotionally. He has helped talk me through all of the ups and downs and put things into perspective.”
—Third-year undergraduate, California State University, Stanislaus

Financial aid officeGreen piggy bank

  • Information on taxes, grants, scholarships, job openings, and more
  • Financial aid packages
  • Student loan information, counseling, and advocacy
  • Personal finance consultations for budgeting strategies
  • Drop-in sessions during office hours for information, advocacy, and financial counseling

How it made the difference

“The financial aid advisors are a great help; you realize the breakdown of a survival budget throughout school until you get to where you want to be in life.”
—Second-year student, Elgin Community College, Illinois

“Finance services can help you get a jump on financial opportunities on and around campus, such as work-study, job openings, and budgeting.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate student, Clemson University, South Carolina

“Student employment [opportunities at my school were] the top reason why I decided against transferring.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Endicott College, Massachusetts

Support for minority communities

  • International student services assist with cultural transitions and other issues
  • Native American student services may include advising, scholarships, housing, etc.
  • Chaplaincy and other religious and spiritual services offer community and worship, often in a multi-faith environment
  • Gender equity services and women’s centers provide community and support with issues relating to discrimination
  • Special benefits/scholarships for veterans (via Veteran Affairs Office or equivalent)

How it made the difference

“The indigenous student support services made it possible for me to complete my first undergrad and start my second one. I wish I’d accessed the Native Student Union earlier.”
—Second-year student, University of Victoria, British Columbia

“The gender equity center changed my perspective, provided support and education, and allowed me to connect with the campus community.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Boise State University, Idaho

“The international student office provides me with the information that I need for work and study permits.”
—Recent graduate, Fleming College, Ontario

Title IX services

  • Promotes a nondiscriminatory educational, living, and working environment
  • Confidential resources and support relating to actions that violate nondiscrimination laws and policies, including sexual assault, coercion, and harassment, and exclusion of transgender students from opportunities and facilities
  • Coordinates, provides, and/or refers to services including victim advocacy, housing assistance, academic support, counseling, disability services, health and mental health services, and legal assistance
  • Investigates cases of alleged misconduct and applies appropriate remedies
  • Provides advocacy and training related to discrimination and violence

How it made the difference

“One girl was harassing and bullying me. The police took the situation very seriously and took me to meet with the dean. I received a no-contact order with that student and have yet to hear from her since.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Indiana University Southeast

“It helped me with my sexual assault case and made me feel like my situation mattered.”
—Fourth-year online undergraduate, University of North Dakota

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Article sources

Danielle Berringer, administrative support, Accommodated Learning Centre, University of Lethbridge, Alberta.

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MacDonald, J. (2015, December 31). Financial planners: Not just for millionaires anymore. Bankrate.com. Retrieved from https://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/financial-planners-not-just-for-millionaires-anymore-1.aspx

Student Health 101 survey,August 2016.

Student Health 101 survey, September 2016.

Sundberg, J. (n.d.). Is a career coach worth the money? UndercoverRecruiter.com. Retrieved from https://theundercoverrecruiter.com/career-coach-worth-money/

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