College Cousins: American University and the University of Denver

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American University (AU) and the University of Denver (DU) have a number of shared characteristics, but there is one that is the particular focus of this feature. In recent years, these two universities, like many others, have significantly bolstered their academic support services. We refer here to academic support across the entire spectrum of need – whether occasional or one-time support for a specialized situation or more substantial support on an ongoing basis.

We all need help from time to time and can all benefit from receiving help if we are to maximize our performance. We’ve all known the experience of facing a course or activity – in school or in life – that we just couldn’t conquer on our own.

Colleges and universities understand this and have established resource programs that enable students to get help in areas in which they might otherwise underperform, struggle or even fail. Some students have diagnosed learning issues that warrant specialized support services, and colleges and universities have responded to those needs, but any course can present a challenge to any student, even those without specific learning issues. The most common areas of struggle are writing and math, specific areas that require specific skills, but students can also derail their success because of issues relating to managing time, stress, and the multiple demands of rigorous courses.

AU and DU are good examples of universities that have extensive academic support resources across the board, all designed to provide help wherever needed.

AU’s Academic Support and Access Center has a comprehensive program designed to offer all its students help wherever it is needed. There is a peer tutoring lab (for help with specific course material), supplemental instruction (if something more in-depth is needed), a writing center (which offers beginning-to-end assistance with writing assignments), a math and statistics lab (for help with assignments and pre-exam study), a student-athlete support program, skills workshops (on academic and college transition topics), and academic support counselors who help with issues such as time management, transition-related stress, catching up after an illness, and more. There’s something for everyone. After all, over the course of four years of rigorous academics, who among us wouldn’t encounter something that would warrant a helping hand?

DU’s Academic Support program reflects a similarly comprehensive approach. Services not only include academic advising about majors and course selection but support in the areas of skill building, time management, and organizational skills development. DU’s writing center provides assistance with class assignments, research papers, and multimedia assignments. In addition, students can meet one on one with tutors for help developing their writing skills or conquering other academic hurdles they may be facing. DU has also recognized the special circumstances of veterans and has services designed to help ease the transition of returning military personnel to academic life. DU, we salute you for that!

But, as the eager salesman said, “That’s not all.”

Students who have diagnosed learning issues and need a broader range of support services can also find the help they need to succeed. Colleges and universities recognize that students with learning issues are just as smart as their peers but that their brains process information differently and, often, more slowly. Once the information is there, these students can think, evaluate, and create as well as their classmates, but acquiring, processing, and storing information from course lectures and textbooks can pose special hurdles. Accommodations facilitate learning for these students. These adjustments not only give such students an assist, but also provide encouragement so that they can, like the rest of us, dream of being the next Steven Spielberg, Charles Schwab, Anderson Cooper, Michael Phelps, Cher, or Whoopi Goldberg, all of whom are among the many successful Americans who have reached the pinnacles of their respective fields despite their learning differences.

AU’s nationally recognized Learning Services Program features one-on-one consultation and support on a weekly basis, a test center where qualifying students can take quizzes and exams, assistive technology, and course material in alternative formats, plus access to all the support services described above.

DU’s highly regarded Learning Effectiveness Program features weekly academic counseling, subject tutoring, executive functioning support, mentoring, and even a variety of student events to facilitate peer support. Its Journey of Empowerment through Transition (JETT) program aids students in transitioning into the collegiate academic and social environment.

It’s all about creating paths to success. By accepting students into their institutions, colleges and universities are making an investment in the future success of those students. They want them to succeed and are providing resources to help pave the way. Students shouldn’t feel shy about taking advantage of these resources. They may find that these kinds of services are the springboard to their success!

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