This is an excerpt from the Daily’s 2014 Orientation Issue. To read the rest of the issue, click here.
During my freshman year of college, I went through two traumatic events that altered my mental health, study habits and sleeping habits. The first occurred right before final exam week in December; the second was during winter semester midterms. I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating your first year of college away from home while going through something difficult, whether it be mental health, a death or situation concerning a loved one, a serious illness or something equally difficult.
My mental and physical health was always my first priority, even when this meant skipping class, turning in papers late and asking exam dates to be moved. And this is okay. But something I didn’t realize the first time around is the extent to which professors are accessible and sympathetic. After I explained my situation to one of my graduate student instructors, she was able to get a midterm exam pushed back a week on the morning I was supposed to be taking it. My Spanish professor worked with me throughout the term to make sure I was able to complete my homework and exams. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your professors and GSIs. At one time, professors were students too, and all of my GSIs have been sympathetic and accommodating as well. Every professor and GSI to whom I explained my situation was unbelievably helpful, kind and willing to work with me through rough situations.
The Dean of Students’ Office on the third floor of the Union was a surprisingly helpful resource I found winter semester. This unit exists to help students, faculty and staff facing challenges while at the University. I walked in on a weekday and was able to immediately meet with a caseworker who listened to the details of my situation and was helpful and supportive. He then sent an e-mail to all of my professors and GSIs that explained that something happening in my life was hindering my ability to perform well in school, attend class and exams and turn in homework and papers. After this e-mail was sent, I felt much more comfortable approaching my GSIs and professors and asking them for help, extensions or excused absences. This legitimized what I was going through and allowed easier and more comfortable communication with professors and GSIs. With this e-mail, I felt like I didn’t need to explain details of my situation to professors and GSIs I wasn’t as familiar with. This seemed to by far be the best-kept secret at the University: none of my friends knew this kind of help existed when they were struggling with similar situations.
Counseling and Psychological Services or CAPS, located next to the Dean of Students, is a resource for students who want mental health or counseling assistance. Appointments can be made on site, and if a student feels that they must be seen immediately, a counselor-on-duty can meet with them between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday during the fall and winter semesters. CAPS offers a variety of services including individual and couples counseling, support groups, psychiatric evaluations, ADHD screenings and more.
The most important thing to realize is that you’re never alone. There are countless resources and people at the University who want to help you. By putting my mental and emotional needs before anything else, notifying my professors and GSIs and taking advantage of campus resources, I was able to finish my freshman year successfully.
Editor’s note: This article discusses the author’s personal experiences and may not reflect University policies for all colleges or schools. Individual cases may be handled differently based on the needs of the student.