College resources 101: Here's what to look out for

There are plenty of college resources your student can find on campus, from advisers to scholarships to housing. Here's what to look out for.
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By Esta Pratt-Kielley

Are you worried your young adult will be all alone when they go off to college? Worry not; there are plenty of resources you can find at your student’s school. Not all of these services will be at every school, but this provides a general guide to the most common offices and resources on campus. Remember, these services differ greatly from school to school so additional research is necessary. After you read this guide, hand it off to your student so they know what to look for on campus.

Academic advising

Academic advising exists in some form at almost all, if not all, colleges and universities. Professional counselors or faculty members will provide student support for academics, including first-year, course selection, and major and degree requirements. At larger schools, there are usually academic advising offices in each program, as the advisors are more specialized in each field.

Bursar's office

The bursar’s office provides financial services and support to students, parents, and staff. If you are paying your student’s tuition, you should pay close attention to the payment deadlines provided by the bursar’s office. If your student is handling their tuition payment, here is where they can check these deadlines and pay their tuition on time. Many college and universities offer interest-free tuition payment plans to spread the payments out over several months, so be sure to ask about this option.

Career center

Career centers aim to work with students in exploring career options, gaining experience through internships while in college, and searching for a job after graduation. The staff in the career center provides services to help students identify and develop the skill and resources necessary to be successful. These services will often include resume and cover letter writing, career advising and development, career fairs, and connections to local, national and global companies. The career center is also often the place for students to learn more about on-campus employment opportunities (including Federal Work Study positions) to earn extra money for school and obtain valuable experiences. Encourage your student to visit the career center during their first year of college and not wait until senior year. It’s never too early to begin career planning.

Dining

Dining halls are common at universities and colleges, providing meal plans for students. If your student lives in campus housing, they will likely be able to sign up for a meal plan and utilize the dining services. In fact, many schools require students to be on a dining plan when living on campus. Larger universities often have multiple dining halls across campus. Students who are not in campus housing generally are able to use these dining halls as well, which may be convenient as they are usually located close to campus buildings and classes.

Disability resources and services

Disability resources and services centers are responsible for determining accommodations and services for students with disabilities. Their goal is to provide equal opportunities in higher education for students with disabilities. These centers will differ greatly from campus to campus, but usually provide a wide range of services.

Financial aid and scholarship office

Financial aid and scholarships support is usually found in its own office, separate from the bursar’s office. Here, students and families may find support in applying for financial aid and scholarships.

Health center

Most educational institutions will have some kind of student health center, usually free for students. They will often provide general health advice, flu shots, and drop-in appointments. Depending on the school, there may be more services like counseling, nutrition, and stress management.

Housing

If your student is living in a dorm or residence hall during their first year of college, it’s likely they will have a lot of contact with the housing services on campus. Not only do these services provide a roof over your student’s head, but they will often provide activities and experiences to get new students acquainted with the campus environment and meet new people. This is also who they will be in contact with if any issues arise while living in campus housing, including violations of conduct, roommate problems, and other housing issues.

International student services

International student services is the primary resource for international students on campus. They will generally provide student support services, advising on immigration, academic support, cultural adjustment, community and campus outreach, and events for international students.

Legal services

For students who need legal advice, this center will provide opportunities for consultation. This may include landlord-tenant relations, consumer protection, or alcohol use and abuse.

Library

Your students will likely end up spending a lot of time in the libraries on campus. But libraries provide a lot more to students than just a place to study. There will often be course reserves for students to rent books instead of buying them for classes, equipment for checkout, such as camera and laptops, group study spaces, research guides, printing, and technology services. Librarians are also another helpful resource and will often help students with anything from general questions to research projects. Encourage your student to utilize the library, at least when they initially start their semester. They may find help that they did not know existed.

Multicultural student affairs

This office will support diverse student populations, including minority and LGBTQ students. Some schools will have their own LGBTQ center in addition and other specific centers, such as African American student centers and Latino student centers. These centers can often be a good place for students to build community and find support.

Off-campus center

For students living off campus, this center can help make the transition smooth. They will usually offer off-campus living guidance and support and connect you with local management companies. Go here and seek advice early, as many off-campus housing tends to fill up quickly for the following year.

Parent and family programs

Many colleges and universities now have programs that provide parents and families with information throughout the year to help them become familiar with the school and provide assistance when they have questions. There may be a specific office or staff member at the school whose job it is to be a liaison with parents and families of students. This can be a great resource for parents who are unsure how exactly to remain involved in their child’s life without being overbearing. They also are helpful in providing resources for parents so that the parents are able to point their student in the right direction when questions arise. Many college and universities host a parents weekend or family weekend for parents and families to visit campus and enjoy some special time with their student.

Recreation center

Campus recreation centers generally will offer fitness and wellness facilities. This may include exercise equipment, sport courts, and exercise classes. Some schools may allow students to use some of the facilities for free with their student identification cards. These centers can be a great way for your student to stay healthy and get involved with intramural sports.

Student life

Student life centers will usually provide general guidance to student life at the school. This usually includes student news, student handbooks, schedules, events, guides to campus services, and information about getting students involved with activities and organizations beyond academics. Information about student organizations, leadership programs, and fraternity and sorority life will likely be accessible here. This will also sometimes include athletic ticketing, which is a hub for students to find season tickets for athletics. Although, sometimes this can be found in a separate center or program.

Study abroad center

If your student is interested in spending a semester or year abroad, this center will be essential to supporting this journey. Students can come to the study abroad center for general information, guidance on where to go, and student testimonials (as many of the employees at these centers are students who have been abroad).

Technology

Many colleges and universities now have technology services and/or technology stores to support students. This may include purchasing laptops and other technology, IT support, technology repair, or technology classes. Advise your student to utilize this support, as they often offers discounts for students and are cheaper compared to other technology stores and services.

Writing center

Writing centers on campus are usually affiliated with the library. These centers can be essential in helping your student adjust to the rigorous writing required in college. Even skilled writers can make use of writing centers, with support for any piece of writing.

Your student’s college or university may have all of these services, some of these services, or more services than this guide provides. Each individual school’s website will generally provide more information, and your student will likely receive some information on these services upon arriving to the campus. Information about campus services is also provided during new student orientation and parent/family orientation programs.