You Can’t Fix it All

by Olivia Miller

This past Friday our advisors throughout the College met for our bi-weekly training sessions and this week a discussion was brought up on helping students on academic probation as that is the main focus of student appointments at the moment. An advisor was concerned about a student, who she has worked with on academic recovery plans for multiple semesters and had also been dishonest with her about classes were going (as the student was not actually attending each class). The question was raised of how do we help these students? How can we help those who have been put on academic probation multiple times, have met with their academic advisor to create a recovery plan, have been given the resources, but find themselves still struggling? I myself, as a new advisor, have had about 25% of my probation students who have been on probation at least once, if not more in the past, and was curious to the best answer of how to help.

Our director also posed questions, “help them what?” Should we be helping them with academic concerns, personal concerns, mental health, etc? In the end there was no answer, but rather a rule to live by – we can’t fix the student. “Give yourself permission to know that you can’t fix the student, you’ve done everything you can.” This was definitely something I needed to hear, and had heard in graduate school, but it is one thing to learn how to help students and wanting to fix all their problems, and then actually put in into practice.

As an ISFJ on Myers-Briggs I am “known for (my) … willingness to go to any length to help those in need.” This can be a strength in any environment, but sometimes in our profession I believe it can also be a permanent roadblock that I am trying to crash through. As student affairs professionals we want to help our students, we want to see them succeed, but as our director pointed out, “the goal shouldn’t always be to stay at school.” Not the retention tool we preach, but a reminder that not everyone is meant for college, and that is okay. For our students to succeed, sometimes that means leaving our institution and finding their fit – whether that is at another institution or outside of higher education. We cannot fix the student, we cannot fit them into a box to succeed, but we can give them the resources necessary and be there when they need us.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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