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Student life is full of challenges, sometimes triggering a major case of enough already. You’re probably aware that the campus offers a bunch of services and resources designed to help you be healthy, resilient, and successful. Do they work? In surveys by Student Health 101, you say yes: These services can make the difference between passing or failing, an A or a B, staying in or dropping out. Students often say they regret waiting until they were in a crisis, and wish they’d accessed these resources earlier. Some report that for the longest time they didn’t know certain types of support existed.

Free stuff for students

Campus resources are usually available free or at a low cost. Of course, gym memberships, counselling, and so on are not literally free; their cost is covered by your tuition or fees. If you don’t use them, you’re not getting what you’re paying for. In a recent survey by Student Health 101, four out of five 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 social anxiety, it will likely be costly.

How to know what you have

The availability of resources at any given school depends on various factors. To learn what’s typically available and how can it make your life easier, click on each section (next page).

Here’s how to make sure you’re not missing out:

  • Scour your college or university website
  • Talk with staff, faculty, RAs, mentors, and other students
  • Check out any building, event, or publication that suggests resources for students
  • Look for student jobs and other opportunities to work with campus resource centres
  • Review your orientation resources (e.g., Class of 2020 Facebook page)

Academic tutoring, office hours, and study support

“I likely would not have passed, nor achieved as satisfactory a grade, without the academic tutoring services.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Fleming College, Ontario

“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

Typical services

  • Supports students through ongoing or short-term struggles, and helps students become more competitive
    (e.g., aspiring grad students looking to improve their grades)
  • Office hours provide individualized time with instructors or peer tutors
  • Study centres can help with time management, overcoming procrastination, note taking, effective reading, exam prep, etc.
  • Many study centres provide group workshops in key skills and specialized tutoring for different subjects
    (or referrals to community-based tutors)
  • Writing centres help students build higher-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

“Getting one-on-one time with professors makes a big difference in preparing for any midterms or exams. Aside from clearing up any questions I have, I often feel more confident in my knowledge after having a more casual conversation about the course material.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of New Brunswick

“[Office hours] helped me get an A on a paper. Their guidance helped me organize my materials more effectively.”
—Third-year undergraduate, MacEwan University, Alberta

Academic advising

“Advising and receiving advice from the college advisors made an incredible difference in relieving the stress of picking courses and making important choices regarding my studies and undergraduate career.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

“It was the difference between me passing my first year of college and failing.”
—Second-year undergraduate, St. Lawrence College, Ontario

Typical services

  • Guidance around what classes to take when, in order to meet graduation requirements efficiently, helps students get through their program more quickly and save money by taking classes in the most appropriate sequence
  • Guidance around accessing opportunities relating to degree goals (e.g., internships and conferences)
  • 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

“It made a big difference when trying to figure out what classes to take and how to manage my academic schedule (as well as providing advice and support).” 
—Second-year undergraduate, University of Victoria, British Columbia

“My advisor has always been a great help. Each year, it makes a difference, and my confidence in choosing classes usually goes up.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Regina, Saskatchewan

Recreational and fitness resources

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

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

Typical services

  • Free access to gym, weight room, track, pool, etc.
  • Free access to a range of fitness classes and intramurals (varies by school)
  • Most schools allow one guest per student with a nominal fee
  • Personal training (may involve a fee)
  • Consultation with nutritionist or fitness director (varies by school; may involve a fee)
  • Cost if paying privately: gym membership averages $58/month (Cheatsheet); personal training $20–$100+ (The Globe and Mail, 2014).

How it made the difference

“The gym saved my sanity because I could go to blow off steam and de-stress from all my work.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

“Fitness and recreation made a tremendous difference in the way I feel about my body.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Humber College, Ontario

Library services

“Knowing how to use the sources in the library made all the difference in some of the papers I had to write.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Waterloo, Ontario

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

Typical 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
  • Private or group study spaces
  • Loans and sometimes rentals of textbooks, laptops, and other materials (varies)
  • Access to software, such as Microsoft Office
  • Specialized research resources for needs relating to disability services and other programs
  • Printing, photocopying, and scanning (may involve fees)
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct equivalent

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

“Library services gave me the opportunity to strengthen my writing technique, research methods, and referencing.”
—Fifth-year undergraduate, Mount Royal University, Alberta

Disability, injury, and illness accommodations and services

“Student Accessibility Services allowed me to continue my academic career despite the many challenges I have faced.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

“I got sick with mono and didn’t go for help, and my grades went down. I wish I would have said something sooner to get time to finish school work.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Michigan Technological University

Typical 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
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct equivalent

How it made the difference

“Accessibility services made an extreme difference, as they allowed me to comfortably write my exams while considering my disabilities.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario

“Disability services made a MASSIVE difference. I probably wouldn’t have made it through my last six years of university without their support.”
—Sixth-year undergraduate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador

Counselling

“I went through an incredibly difficult family emergency while in a very demanding program. Counselling 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

“There is a good chance I wouldn’t be in university right now without it.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Windsor, Ontario

Typical services

  • Free counselling/therapy services, confidential for those age 18+ (below that age, inquire about confidentiality law and policy)
  • Individual and group counselling, emergency psychological services, and wellness programming including workshops and groups
  • Support with issues including 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)
  • Cost if paying privately: $60–$150 per 50-minute session; government medical plans or employer benefits may cover the costs

How it made the difference

“Counselling services opened my eyes up to ways to avoid falling down again.”
—Undergraduate, University of Regina, Saskatchewan

“Counselling made a large difference in my ability to cope with a very difficult situation directly related to attending school and feeling safe doing so.”
—Recent graduate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador

Health services

“I am an out-of-province student and although Fredericton has many after-hours clinics, knowing I can make an appointment with student health is very important.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of New Brunswick

“Excellent system, easy to access, and the doctors are very friendly. I wish
I didn’t have so many hesitations and went to them sooner.”
—Third-year undergraduate, Mount Royal University, Alberta

Typical services

  • Consultations and treatment for injury, illness, and health maintenance via campus health centre
  • Preventive health services including vaccinations (flu shots, travel vaccines, and more)
  • Smoking cessation, alcohol moderation, recovery support, and other substance use services
  • Specialist health services, including STI and pregnancy testing and birth control
  • Care with chronic allergies, illness (e.g., diabetes), and other conditions, including administering injections
  • Health care providers may include physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, physician assistants, and specialists such as psychiatrists
  • Appointments are often free; tests and medications may involve fees
  • Many schools offer student health insurance and/or accept other health insurance
  • Urgent care centres: Cost will vary based on need and insurance
  • Canadian universities accept territorial and provincial health plans, even if you’re attending school out of province. Many will require extended coverage for dental, prescription medications, and vision.

How it made the difference

“It made it super easy to get a doctor’s appointment without having to find your own doctor, and I probably saw the doctor more than I would have if we didn’t have one available to us because it was so easy.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Victoria, British Columbia

“Allows me to see a doctor for appointments or walk-in situations very easily, fitting in to my busy class schedule (no need to find transportation). Would likely not have gotten immediate attention or have gotten flu shots were it not for the proximity to my lecture halls.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, University of Guelph, Ontario

Career services

“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

“Career services made a major difference with my applications and skills with writing personal statements.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia

Typical services

  • Internship, summer job, and co-op opportunities, application information, and guidance on making the most of these positions
  • Resumé 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 fair
  • Exploring career options and strategy
  • Mock interviews
  • Cost of career coaching if paying privately: $100–$500/two-hour session (Undercover Recruiter)

How it made the difference

“Career services helped me navigate law school. It made a huge impact.”
—Third-year graduate student, University of Windsor, Ontario

“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

Residence life and mentoring

Typical services

  • Support through the range of challenges relating to transitions and university life
  • Formal mentoring programs can provide regular, structured check-ins (varies by school and student population)
  • Informal mentoring by mutual agreement can also be effective
  • Connections to peers and alumni
  • Cost of life coaching if paying privately: $100–$300/hour (LifeCoach.com)

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 and Wales University, Rhode Island

“I worked at the Solution Center, which answers the campus main line and also is the IT Help Desk. Being a freshman, I learned a lot about deadlines, how things work, where to find information. I just learned about all my resources and what to do when I have issues with something. I basically learned everything about campus, and it helped so much.”
—Second-year undergraduate at California State University, Channel Islands

“Mentoring through the business administrations program helped me feel more comfortable and understand the program better.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

“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 support

Typical services

  • Information on taxes, grants, scholarships, job openings, and more
  • Financial aid packages
  • Student loan information, counselling, and advocacy
  • Personal finance consultations for budgeting strategies
  • Drop-in sessions during office hours for information, advocacy, and financial counselling
  • Cost of financial planning if paying privately: $125–$350/hour (Bankrate.com)

How it made the difference

“Financial aid: I would not have been able to go to school without this service.”
—Part-time undergraduate, Trent University, Ontario

“Financial aid made a huge difference—between eating or not.”
—Graduate student, University of Victoria, British Columbia

“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

Support for minority communities

Typical services

  • Special benefits/scholarships for veterans
  • International student services assist with cultural transitions and other issues
  • First Nations 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 centres provide community and support with issues relating to discrimination
  • Cost if paying privately: no direct 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

“Ultiziling the Aboriginal centre helps me out a lot due to being very shy.”
—Recent graduate, Lambton College, Ontario

“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

Your wish list: What you'd like to see on campus

These responses came from students at numerous colleges and universities across Canada and the US. Some of these resources may be available at your school.

  • Free coffee
  • Public sleep/nap areas
  • Dance rooms or public art spaces
  • Prayer room
  • Space for indigenous practices such as smudging
  • Sign language
  • Drivers Ed
  • Easier access to rental vehicles
  • Support with budgeting, filing taxes, and legal issues
  • Summer rec. centre access
  • Vegetarian/vegan dining stations
  • Groups supporting eating healthy on residence meal plan
  • Gender-neutral bathrooms and housing
  • Clubs and scholarships for first-generation students
  • Better support for transfer students
  • Resources for young parents
  • Resources for how to deal with sexual assault as a student

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Article sources

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

Burress, H. (2015, January 19). What factors affect the cost of a personal trainer? Angie’sList.com. Retrieved from https://www.angieslist.com/articles/what-factors-affect-cost-personal-trainer.htm

Colorado Mesa University. (2015). Mentoring. Retrieved from http://www.coloradomesa.edu/student-services/diversity-and-health/mentoring.html

Costa, C. D. (2016, January 1). Why a gym membership is usually a bad investment. Money & Career CheatSheet. Retrieved from http://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/why-a-gym-membership-is-usually-a-bad-investment.html/?a=viewall

Georgia State University. (n.d.). Nutrition consultations. http://recreation.gsu.edu/fitness/fitness-center/nutrition-consultations/

Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (2011). Treatment providers in the community. Retrieved from http://www.hws.edu/studentlife/pdf/psychotherapists_community.pdf

Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (2016). Sexual misconduct resources and support. Retrieved from http://www.hws.edu/studentlife/titleIX_office.aspx

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2015, May 5). Primary care visits available to most uninsured but at high price. Retrieved from http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2015/primary-care-visits-available-to-most-uninsured-but-at-a-high-price.html

Lifecoach.com. (2016). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from http://www.lifecoach.com/coaching-faqs

NCSU Libraries. (n.d.). Technology lending. Retrieved from https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/techlending

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

Student Health 101 survey, July 2016.

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

University of Lethbridge. (2016). Resources. Retrieved from http://www.uleth.ca/counselling/content/u-l-resources

The University of Maine. (n.d.). Financial resources for students. Retrieved from http://umaine.edu/sss/finances/

University of Notre Dame. (2016). Want to mentor? Retrieved from http://careercenter.nd.edu/alumni-mentor/want-to-mentor/

University of Washington. (2014). Undergraduate advising. Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/uaa/advising/finding-help/study-centers-and-tutoring/

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Taylor Rugg is an undergraduate at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York. She’s double majoring in writing & rhetoric and war, warfare & the soldier experience. She has studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, and is hoping to pursue a doctorate degree in rhetoric or linguistics. Taylor is a member of the SH101 Student Advisory Board 2016–17.

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Karl Johnston studied Human Resources and Labour Management at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. He is the former Canadian Features Editor of Let’s Be Wild magazine and It’s Just Light magazine, and a columnist at The Northern Journal. Karl is a member of the SH101 Student Advisory Board 2016–17.