The academic aspect of campus life is why students come to institutions of higher learning in the first place. They're working towards their specialized credential which will help them to get to where they want to go in life. This means that we, as student affairs folks, are poised to help our students better engage in their academics and position themselves for career success after they graduate. There are a few simple things that we can all do to aid in their engagement with their coursework.
Help Them Choose Stuff They're Into
The first and perhaps most important step in this process is helping students figure out what they want to do. While college is about finding yourself, figuring out a general direction for your student is more helpful than if they were to wander aimlessly through their coursework. If a student lacks direction they may waste valuable time, (and money), on classes they don't need. This is understandably frustrating for students, and can play a big part in why some students give up. We can help students by using various tools to find out what they're into or would be good at. Some tools I find helpful are Strengths Finder, MBTI, True Colors, and the Holland assessment tool.
Maximize Their Schedule
Students often get frustrated when they have to take classes that don't align with their chosen majors, the dreaded "gen ed",( general education, liberal arts, breadth requirement). A smart way to get around this is to maximize the choice of each class your students take. For instance, suggest classes that satisfy multiple requirements at once. It’s also a good idea to help students figure out the best way to schedule their classes:
- Do they prefer night classes?
- Classes that meet once a week?
- Having all their classes on as few days as possible?
- More (or less) credits?
All of these help students be empowered to manage their academics and have it work with their life and schedule.
Apply Their Learning to the "Real World"
Student affairs folks can help combine the learning our students are gaining in their courses by helping them to figure out how to transfer course concepts and theories to their daily lives. Say, for example, you're working with a Resident Assistant student staff member, and they're learning about communication theory. Those concepts directly apply to their interactions with their residents. We could even task them with working in the theory into future conversations and see how it goes. I know I have regular meetings with my RAs, probably just as often, if not more than their professors. So, I can continue to engage my students in learning outside the classroom, in ways that provide relevance to what they're learning. These concepts will help you guide your students towards being as engaged in the classroom, as they are outside of it. Certainly direct them towards their academic advisors if you ever don't know the exact answer to anything. However, these simple tips should be able to help most students no matter where they are or what they're studying.