Everyone has questions. Not everyone seeks answers. But in your college search and those crazy first days on campus, maybe you’re just unsure where to turn. Of course, if you have a basic question, like when baseball starts or what night is free pizza night in the student union, always check the school’s website first. You’d be surprised how many answers you’ll find with a little research! But if you’re still in the dark after a solid search—or if you have a unique issue—it may be time to send an email or make a phone call. So don’t be shy. Remember that these offices exist for this very purpose: to help students just like you!
Applications and admission
Seek out these people at your college of interest or current institution for issues about campus visits and tours, admission interviews, information requests, and application questions or errors.
You can often find a designated admission counselor for your state or even high school. Counselors are there to answer your questions regarding applications, deadlines, or the overall college search process. Establish a good relationship with your counselor(s) from the very beginning; the more your counselor gets to know you, the easier it is for him or her to help you in the future. However, be careful not to take advantage. Make sure you do the necessary research on your own, especially if you have a simple question that can be answered by a quick search of the school’s website.
Support services, such as academic record management and enrollment, can be found at your university registrar’s office. The registrar maintains the master course list and builds the course schedule for each term. On the registrar’s website, you may view academic calendars along with course catalogs to find information about adding and dropping classes and the requirements needed for graduation. Thinking about transferring? The registrar has everything you need. They will process official transcript requests and evaluate all transfer coursework. If for any reason you need to withdraw from college, or you are returning after a leave of absence, the registrar is where you should head first.
Reach out to individuals in the financial aid office for issues about financial aid applications, financial aid allocation, scholarships, tuition payment plans, student loans, and work-study. (It's important to note that work-study questions may also need to be directed to a career services office, which we'll get into later.)
Financial aid officers
In addition to the FAFSA, you may encounter additional institution-specific financial aid applications. These forms can be tricky to navigate, but financial aid officers are there to help you through the process. However, they aren’t going to do it for you. Be respectful and ask for their guidance only. It is important to know financial aid officers cannot give award estimates on the fly, nor can they calculate your FAFSA results. Your financial aid always depends on the completed results of the official forms, but these counselors can help you decipher award offers after you’ve received them. Also, if you or your family’s situation suddenly changes drastically after you have submitted your applications, you should contact the financial aid office to inform them of the situation; it may impact your award.
Many students graduate without ever knowing the bursar’s office exists, but the people in this office perform some crucial tasks: they manage all student accounts and issue bills for tuition and fees. They are also responsible for crediting your account for payments received through financial aid and administering funded scholarships and approved third-party tuition payments.
Jobs and internships
These are the career development people you want to have a conversation with if you have questions or queries about work-study, campus employment, and co-ops.
This office is responsible for many helpful student resources like career fairs and job search workshops. They can set up on-campus job interviews for students and provide one-on-one counseling. If you need help exploring your options and identifying your interests, careers services can help point you in the right direction to pursue employment or graduate school.
Co-ops and internships allow you to test the waters of different occupations before you graduate, and having an internship or co-op on your résumé helps you stand out to potential employers as well. But you’re also probably new to the internship search and application process—that’s why you’re likely to find a co-op/internship advisor within the career services office that can help!
There are many different offices, administrators, and other campus personnel you may need to reach out to about issues about housing, student clubs and activities, athletics, off-campus living, social events, and meal plans.
Student life office
Want to start a new club or organization on your campus? The student life office has everything you need. Acting as the hub of activities on campus, student life can help you create a club of your own. By filling out a proposal and getting signatures of potential club members, you are on your way to starting your own campus organization.
Intramurals are a great way to be a part of your favorite sports with reduced commitment and competition. The intramural director can give you information on which sports are offered as intramural teams and which team might suit you best. Students can sign up for teams—usually on a first-come, first-served basis—with no required tryout. Intramural events are usually supervised by the athletic staff and officiated by student employees.
Residence hall director/advisor
Every residence hall has one or more resident advisors (RAs) and usually one resident director (RD). RAs are easily accessible to students (often 24/7), and they are there to make sure all residents are abiding by dorm rules and to assist with any issues they may have. RAs may also organize monthly social events within their dorms to foster community and may simply check in with their residents to make sure everything is going smoothly. RDs oversee the resident advisor staff and are also available to students if needed. However, it is better to approach your RA with any problems first, and if they need further assistance, the RDs will jump in.
For issues about dorm theft, sexual assault, late-night transportation, and other issues of personal safety or crime, here's who to seek help from.
Every campus has a safety department, usually run by campus police officers you may see on foot, on bicycle, or in a patrol vehicle. Had a late night in the library and don’t feel comfortable walking back to your dorm alone? Don’t be afraid to contact campus safety for a ride. Witness a troubling confrontation between students on your way to class? Instead of getting involved, let campus safety know and they can handle it professionally.
Residence hall director/advisor
For problems occurring within your dorm, you should approach your resident advisor first. Minor arguments with another resident or issues with broken furniture in your room don't need more serious involvement than your RA. But if needed in more pressing circumstances, they'll help you seek out campus safety for assistance.
Health and wellness
For issues about sexual assault, depression, anxiety, stress, minor illness, and any other health-related concerns, these are the best people to give you what you need.
Campus health center
Staffed by nurse practitioners and physicians, campuses almost always have a health center for student use. Services are usually covered by tuition, regardless of health insurance. However, there may be additional fees for lab tests, medications, X-rays, or off-campus referrals, which may be covered by your insurance. Services provided by each campus health center vary, so check your school’s website to see what’s available. In case of an emergency, visit the nearest hospital.
Found on most college campuses, these offices are available for individual counseling, group therapy, or stress management. Professional clinicians work with students, parents, staff, and faculty during orientation or at health and wellness fairs. Again, services provided vary. If your campus doesn’t have its own counseling center, you can find more information and resources through campus health services.
These are the top people to reach out to about issues about classes and homework, class scheduling, tutoring, majors, minors, concentrations, and interdisciplinary or independent study.
You'll usually be assigned an academic advisor who works in your college or department of study. They're there to help you plan your class schedule each semester and answer questions about graduation requirements, study abroad, and anything else you may need help with on the road to earning your degree. Don't be afraid to reach out and schedule an appointment anytime—and if you find that they're not exactly helpful, don't be afraid to request to change advisors.
If you feel uncomfortable asking a question in class or you just need extra help, your professors should have set office hours when they’re available to their students. Office hours vary with every professor, but it is an opportunity for you to talk to them one-on-one, usually with no appointment needed.
If you need a little extra help figuring out your calculus homework or writing the intro to your research paper, visit the campus tutoring center. They tend to specialize in math and writing, but other subjects may be available. Remember that tutors are available for a reason and included in your tuition, so take advantage! It may be the difference between getting an A or a B on that final paper or exam.
There are so many kind and supportive people working at colleges who are there because they want to see students like you thrive and succeed. Don’t be afraid to reach out and take advantage of the services and support they offer. Despite being a time of independence and self-discovery, college isn’t a solo journey. Each campus is a community designed to foster growth, so utilize every part of it on your way to a fantastic future.
If you want a more in-depth look at important resources you should be taking advantage of on your campus, check out our blog on 5 Great Campus Resources Students Should Know About.