Academic mentors: an under-used resource

Moving into residence at Mount Allison, I was extremely excited about meeting new people and making new friends. But I was also a bit nervous about academic life, and I had a ton of questions. Would I be able to handle the pressures of university courses? How would I know if I was even taking the right classes for my degree? And how would I have time to finish all my assignments and study for the midterms and finals without becoming a hermit and completely sacrificing my social life? I didn’t know where to start, or who to ask. Fortunately, I found myself in a very academically-focused house with an academic mentor who seemed to know everything about university courses, and who I knew I could turn to for help at any time.

This is not, of course, everybody’s first-year experience. A lot of people start university worried about whether they will sink or swim in their classes, but they may not find the resources they need to succeed. Add the “party culture” in residence to the mix, and you have a perfect storm for a lost first-year student to end up drowning in work.

However, there are lots of good academic resources available to students, such as the academic mentors who live in each house. A large part of the ac-men’s job is to connect students with resources around campus, such as the registrar’s office or the writing resource centre. They also aim to help students gain study skills, both one-on-one and in group workshops.

Unfortunately, the resources that ac-mens offer are not always well utilized. When I was an ac-men, we held office hours for students to come with any questions they may have about academics, so that we could help them find the resources on campus that they may need for their academic success. But people almost never came to me with questions during my hours, and I was not the only ac-men who experienced this. When I was working in residence, a common sentiment among the ac-mens was how we wished students would ask us for help rather than asking their friends or the RAs, who may not have had the correct information or been able to help. This left us feeling rather underappreciated.

Another poorly utilized resource offered by ac-mens was the study sessions we hosted for the large introductory courses. Shortly before the midterm or exam, we would hire a tutor or two to come in for an evening and help students with the course material. Only one of the study sessions that I hosted was well-attended, with the vast majority having a small turnout.

It seems that students in residence are not taking full advantage of the resources available to them, but it’s hard to say who is to blame for this. Is it the University’s fault for not having enough resources available? The ac-men’s fault for not connecting with the people in their residences? Or perhaps it’s us students, who don’t always seek help when we need it?

I believe that no one group is fully to blame. That being said, I also believe that, ultimately, the onus is on the student when it comes to their academics. The University can hire great ac-mens, offer good study help sessions and provide information to students, but it’s up to the students to choose to ask for and accept help when they need it.

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