No Student is An Island

by · February 27, 2019

By Dan Fenyo

We’ve all heard that classic maxim of reliance on others: “No Man is an Island.” For college students, John Donne’s immortal wisdom rings all the more true. While there may be a certain population of students who, without any exceptional support or guidance, find academic success, and graduate in four years, they are undoubtedly a minority.

Today, I want to talk about support for students on campus and the Student Support Center at the Mount. In many ways, higher education represents a new foray into independence. For some students, the sudden onset of autonomy can be empowering and awakening; for others, it can feel a big like being stranded on an island. Before you unload the minivan and leave your freshman at his or her dorm, rest assured that the Mount offers a number of resources to students to assist in their transition to college through the SSC. As usual, I’ll be talking primarily about the services offered through MSMC, but it’s always important to check to see what resources are offered by all the schools your student is considering attending.

The Student Support Center at the Mount is a broad umbrella that actually encompasses three separate departments: the Office for Student Success, Counseling Services, and Disability Services. For today, I’m going to focus on the OSS, but if you can’t possibly wait until later this week to learn about Counseling and Disability Services, you’re always welcome to contact those departments directly!

Picture yourself as a college freshman: Anxious, hopeful, and pressured to succeed from your family, friends, and new set of peers. Your new classes (which you selected yourself) are completely unlike those you’re accustomed to from high school. Instead of a teacher, you have a professor. You used to write an essay once every semester; now they get assigned every week. Uh-oh. Is it time to panic yet? Of course not! It’s time to visit the Office of Student Success and sit down with your assigned Academic Coach.

Through the OSS, all incoming freshmen are assigned an academic coach, a masters-level professional focused on easing students’ transition into the college environment. Your student’s academic coach is a completely separate entity from his or her academic advisor. The latter is more of a big-picture person on campus. The advisor is ensuring that their students are on track to graduate on time by guiding them through the course catalog and steering them towards classes that best play to their strengths. Your student’s academic coach is the Mick to their Rocky, the Yoda to their Luke Skywalker, and the Mr. Miyagi to their Karate Kid. Beyond academics alone, students’ coaches are responsible for helping to overcome common barriers to college success: time management, goal-setting, critical self-reflection, etc.

For students who might encounter difficulty in specific areas of study, the OSS is the first stop to connect with an academic tutor. Mount tutors are typically undergraduate peers who must demonstrate mastery in the subject they teach in addition to exemplary interpersonal skills. Peer tutoring, like all the resources offered by the OSS, is completely free for students for as long as they stay enrolled at the Mount.

Many parents unfamiliar with their role in the college experience may be surprised to learn that colleges very very rarely send out regular report cards or progress reports. Your student’s academic standing is, in most cases, only visible to them. While it’s encouraged for students to share their progress with their families, parents and guardians are not entitled to know a student’s grades in a particular class. Fortunately, the Mount’s Parent Partnership Program can help to bridge the gaps of communication between parents and students by providing the former with regular updates regarding academic deadlines and other essential information throughout the semester. The PPP also conducts orientation sessions for parents and guardians to learn how to best support and connect with their blossoming collegian.

What avenues of support are most important to you and your child? What types of actions can you take as a parent or guardian to help support their college success? Let me know what you think on Facebook and Instagram!


Daniel Fenyo has been an admissions counselor at the Mount since September 2018. A lifelong Hudson Valley resident, he enjoys reading, writing, and all things nerdy in his free time.

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