Summer school can be demanding, but there is help available

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Summer classes can bring extra stress due to having condensed schedules. However, there are resources that can help.

Stephanie Simpson, assistant director of online student services at the Office of Online and Education Outreach, said the best way for a student to avoid being overwhelmed is to prioritize and organize their time.

“If you are intentional about what it is that you have set out to do, you registered with these courses, or someone registered you for these courses, depending on the program that you're in, you accepted those courses,” Simpson said, “you have to be intentional about doing all that you can to be successful.”

Simpson said lists and calendars are a great way to begin that organization, but knowing when to reach out for help is just as important. SIUE has many resources for students struggling with how to organize their time or even their mental space such as their academic advisers, Transfer Talk Tuesdays,Student Academic Support Sessions,ACCESS,SOAR,Office of Online and Education Outreach,Counseling Services and student success coaches, she said.

“Very recently as in the last month, the institution hired three student success coaches, which is a new position to the institution,” Simpson said. “And their role is to be and offer this very much customized level of intentional support that is different than what an academic adviser can provide.

Simpson said the roles of the student success coaches have been designed to be holistic and support students who are at risk but students who are struggling can reach out directly for this service.

Justin Huff, an academic adviser in the CAS office, said that academic advisers aren’t just in place to tell students what classes they need to take to graduate — they can be a valuable connection for students who are needing help and able to offer other resource information.

“We're also here to help you figure out ways to be successful,” Huff said. “If that means sharing with us what's going on in [their] daily life outside of school, so we can help them figure out what is the best thing to maybe do, what is the best plan of attack to be successful?”

When it comes to taking on summer classes or even signing up for a heavier class load other semesters, Huff said using calendars and planners and scheduling your day instead of improvising is the best plan. When students are meeting with him, he said he has students take him through what their average day looks like to determine if they can handle the addition of summer classes.

“I get very honest with them, very forthcoming with them, telling them right off the bat, this course is maybe just a two-week long class, maybe this class is only five weeks long. So, I really tell them, the class is going to be very quick,” Huff said. If you are working, if you have children or anything like that, just understand that you're [going to] have to have a lot of time management with that.” 

Lisa Thompson-Gibson, coordinator for Outreach and Prevention Initiatives and staff counselor, said for students who are struggling with the stress of their schedules, learning to pace themselves, focus and finding balance in their life for their mental health will help.

“Pacing yourself as you get those invitations to go to the lake or camp do a hike or whatever, being able to balance out those offerings with other tasks and commitments that you have, whether it be work or an assignment, or catching up on rest,” Thompson-Gibson said. “Being able to have that mantra of pacing yourself in what is reasonable, and achievable [helps maintain that balance].”

Thompson-Gibson said students must find out what they can handle and what their level of tolerance is in relation to maintaining good mental health, and recognize when they need to step back and when to reach out for help.

“I also think it's helpful to ask for help and support and having family and friends in your corner. If that may be lacking, which happens sometimes for folks for a number of different reasons, being able to access teachers or tutors, staff members that are on campus, even the more passive resources likeTherapy Assistance Online and the modules that we have available for learning how to manage stress, how to have boundaries, you know how to address concerns that may suggest anxiety or depression,” Thompson-Gibson said.

Thompson-Gibson said TAU is available to any student, staff or faculty with an SIUE email for self-enrollment and is completely private. It can be helpful for learning how much one can sustain, assess if they are taking care of their basic needs and help identify if they are in stress.

“We find when people are in distress, the basic needs tend to go away. So that's when people aren't eating, that's when they're not being hydrated, they're not sleeping, they're not getting their daily living activities done,” Thompson-Gibson said.

Thompson-Gibson said students need to maintain basic daily activities in addition to pacing because when those fall off it’s really hard to think critically.

“Students should find activities that bring them peace: cooking, taking walks, reading, whatever it is to take breaks between school work to reset themselves,” Thompson-Gibson said. “I think being able to carve out space for grounding and centering, whether it be listening to music, a good book and getting with other people ... taking those intentional breaks from the intensity of the academic work to focus on a hobby, any of those different kinds of things can be really helpful.

Huff said that coping with the grind of school, work and other things going on in life, students should make time to be social with family and friends.

“Because there are times where with everything going on, you can get very mentally fatigued and next thing you know, things like anxiety, depression, sets in from all the pressure,” Huff said. “So, I do stress to my students, ‘you know you are human … remember that you are human, you can only take on, you know, so much.’ So, reward yourself sometimes.”

Links and resources for students struggling with classes, time management, organization and stress or mental health can be found below.

Students in immediate psychological crisis may call 650-2842 for an in-person visit with SIUE trained staff, 911/650-3324 for police assistance. Students can also text  ITSOK to 741741 to speak with crisis counselors.Students can schedule a virtual visit with Counseling Services by visiting their website.

Simpson said she recommends that students utilize the Online Student Orientation website for students taking online courses and that has many resources to help students discover what kind of learner they are and how to plan.


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