I’m participating on a panel on the 6th August for mid-year commencing students that is focused on wellbeing.
Ahead of time the organiser of the panel gave me some questions to ponder. I’ll obviously ponder them out loud on the day, but also thought I’d take the time to respond to these questions on the blog as well because I think they are highly relevant to many students.
What is student wellbeing to you?
Look, first and foremost, I think student wellbeing is about a student feeling engaged with and performing well at their studies. feeling like they are in control, enjoying the content, feeling competent enough to deal with the challenges of study (e.g. assignments, exams, group work) and being able to (at a minimum) be able to see how some aspects of what they are studying are related to their future goals and ambitions.
For students to feel that comfortable with their studies, typically things need to be working in other aspects of their life: good living situation, supportive relationships, adequate finances, adequate physical and mental health.
That isn’t to negate the fact that some students are able to perform at a high level, even if they are struggling in other aspects of their life, but more often than not, students doing well at their studies are also doing OK in other areas as well. Few of us have all areas of our lives working perfectly, but the more areas of your life in which you are coping effectively, the more likely it will be you are coping alright with your studies.
What are some of the barriers to student wellbeing that you see students experience – what are some of the common difficulties?
The most common barrier to successful study I see, which actually reflects many different potential situations, is where a student is struggling in one or more key areas of life. The most common areas include:
Having a significant physical or mental health issue
Having significant financial problems
Having poor or non-existent support networks
Significant caring duties
Dangerous living circumstances (e.g. domestic violence)
These challenges consume a large proportion of an individual’s coping resources and time, leaving little for them to allocate to their studies. Not surprisingly the more challenges a student is facing in their outside life, the more difficult it is for them to muster the time, energy and focus required for higher education.
International students struggle with the same kinds of issues, with the addition of cultural and language barriers that add a whole level of complexity on top.
One of the pleasing trends in the maturation of universities has been opening up education opportunities to individuals who might not otherwise have been able to access higher education because of significant vulnerabilities. With this however comes a responsibility of the university to ensure that these students know how to manage these vulnerabilities in
What are your top tips for student success at University?
Purpose – take the time to clarify in your own head why it is you are at university and what it is you are working towards. When we have a longer term vision, we are more resilient to short-term setbacks.
Prioritise – modern life promotes activity and attention overload, leading many of us to spread our concentration and attention too thinly across lots of activities. The opportunity to be at university is a great one. You have access to the world’s knowledge and the opportunity to develop expertise in a specific area. Prioritise (as best you can) your learning and studies. Don’t feel bad or worried about limiting your extra-curricular activities, as study will provide plenty of diverse and new experiences.
Learn how to learn – by the time I arrived at university I was already a ‘good student’. I had picked up good study techniques more by accident than design. My suggestion is that you do the opposite – that you explicitly learn techniques to make yourself a better student – growth mindsets, time management, study techniques, exam preparation. This can save you an incredible amount of time down the track in terms of wasted study time (wasted because the learning techniques you are using don’t work well).
Manage your life – if you are struggling in one of the areas of life highlighted earlier, make sure you are actively seeking and using the supports required to manage this area of your life. Make sure that health and mental health disorders are being appropriately treated, that you are making full use of the welfare services available to you in the university (e.g. FUSA) as well as externally (e.g. Department of Human Services), and that you are trying to build an adequate social support network. There is no shame in asking for help. Flinders University is fully aware that many students are dealing with significnat life challenges, and that study is one of the ways that people try to push forward in life. We’ll do our best to help you find the right supports so you can study effectively.
What support services are important for students to be aware of?
The ones that can help you keep on top of common wellbeing challenges:
Health, Counselling and Disability Services are a key service to know about for those who struggle with physical and mental health issues and disabilities. We can help link you in with the right services to ensure physical and mental health problems are appropriately managed.
OASIS – the wellbeing centre in the university. Home to a range of programs that can help you build mental/physical wellbeing, social wellbeing and spiritual wellbeing. Home of the Flinders Community Market.
Flinders University Students Association (FUSA) is one of the key welfare contacts in the university. They can help with academic advocacy, financial assistance and frequently have free food around. They also provide links to other legal and welfare supports.
Student Learning Centre and Studiosity – your first port of call to learn how to learn.
International Student Services – a starting point for international students who are wondering what services are available to them to help them settle in.
And finally, I will put in a plug for the Student Health and Wellbeing Blog and the Wellbeing for Academic Success FLO site. If you are interested in how to develop mental fitness and resilience, I write regularly about it on the blog and put that content also in the FLO site.