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Finding Help at College

Where to get help for mind, body and psyche on campus

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It's always tough to watch your child struggle, but when he's a college student away at school, it's especially hard. You want to swoop in and fix everything, even though you know helicopter parenting is a really bad idea. Thing is, universities have all sorts of resources to help and a gentle reminder about their existence may be all it takes to help your student help himself. Here's a quick rundown on what's available.

1. The Learning Center

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Failing classes, struggling with content, hopelessly at sea academically? No matter how brilliant your child was in high school, he may be unhappily surprised by the higher expectations of college TAs and professors. Those professors hold office hours specifically so they can talk with and help students. In addition, most universities offer drop-in tutoring for any student who needs it. When your college kid calls, devastated by that midterm D or asking you to edit his papers, ask him if he's gone to the Learning Center. These study halls are staffed by peer tutors - and in some cases, by faculty - who provide math, science and writing help. During the lead-up to exams, many of these centers are open 24/7 and they're typically free.

2. Academic Advisers

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Students who are stressed about majors, drowning in course work and/or failing multiple classes need to talk to their academic adviser. It's important not to wait until your college kid is facing academic probation before seeking help. An adviser can discuss options and offer advice - including switching to a related major that does not require as much calculus, for example.

3. The Health Center: Body & Mind

Doctor's bag
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Stress, sickness, aches and pains? Dorms and their close quarters are a hotbed of shared germs. Add in dysfunctional sleep patterns, all-nighters and exam stress, and you've got a recipe for sick, exhausted kids. You've packed your new freshman off to school with a good first aid kit, and talked about the importance of fresh air, plentiful sleep and a good diet. The next line of defense is the campus health center and its nurses, doctors and counselors. Your child can find help for substance abuse issues, anxiety and eating disorders assistance there as well.

4. Campus Security, Parking, Safety

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You may think of the university police as a quasi-cops outpost on campus, but they do more than patrol the grounds and keep the peace. Kids who don't feel safe walking across campus late at night can get a ride back to their dorm or sorority from campus security, for example, or from a ride service sponsored by that department. At small colleges where the student health center is staffed by a triage nurse, for example, or the doors close at night, campus security can provide transport to an emergency room. For decades, college students could summon a campus security officer by pushing the button at a blue-topped emergency kiosk on campus. Those kiosks have been slowly disappearing though, replaced by the ease of the omnipresent cell phone, so make sure your kid has the campus security number programmed into his phone.

5. Resident Assistants

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These older students are a treasure trove of helpful information and compassionate advice on everything from roommate struggles to which-professor-to-choose decisions. Stressed out? Go to the RA. Fights with the roomie? Go to the RA. Not sure how difficult a class really is? The RA has either taken the class or knows someone who has. In addition, RAs know campus resources up, down and sideways, so if a situation arises that they can't handle or that requires more expert assistance, they'll know exactly where to send your kid for help.

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