how to ask for help at uni

This piece was originally published on the UOW Digital Media Society website.

Asking for help in any situation can be intimidating. It can be difficult to face the vulnerability of admitting that you can’t do something alone. But, the great thing about university is that nobody expects you to have all the answers.

When I was in high school I was sold a lie by many of my teachers. I believed them when they said that my future university lecturers and tutors would not give a damn about me nor my personal struggles. That to them, I was just a number, just another face in a crowd, just another paper to mark.

After three years studying a Bachelor of Communications and Media at UOW, I can safely say that none of this is true. University is supposed to be a place of learning and growth and the academics here understand that journey. They are our advocates and we can trust in them to do right by us if we put the effort in.

Despite this, showing up at an academic’s door to ask a question can still be a challenge. So here are some tips to nudge you in the right direction:

Send an email

Sending an email can be a lot less scary than asking a question face to face. When you write an email, you get acute control over every little detail from the wording to how you frame your situation. If you’re anxious about not communicating exactly what you’re issue is then this is a great option. Alternatively, using an email as a prelude to a face to face meeting can help lay the groundwork for an easier conversation.

Ask after class

If your main concern is intruding on your lecturer or tutor’s time, then asking a question after class can be a good way to get around that. Most academics invite questions during or after their classes which makes this even easier.

Make sure you’ve covered all bases

Sometimes you might worry about looking naive for asking for help from a lecturer or tutor. Often this comes from a place of self-doubt about our own abilities as a student and budding professional. A good way to combat these feelings is to make sure you’ve searched for the answers elsewhere first. This includes looking in the subject outline, double checking Moodle, and looking through your lecture notes for any helpful hints that might have been dropped by your lecturer. This is also a good way of seeking help without actually having to talk to anyone, so if you’re a hardcore introvert then take note.

Try asking at the Library

A lot of the library staff are students like us. They have a lot of knowledge about the best ways to research, reference and do all manner of academic things. If you feel more comfortable talking to someone who is also a student then the library could be your best option.

The door is always open (during consultation hours)

The consultation times you can find in your subject outlines are there because your tutors and lecturers genuinely wan’t to see you. They wan’t you to ask for help if you feel stuck and they wan’t you to have the best chance possible to thrive. I can guarantee that you will be welcome should you choose this course of action

So if you need help with your studies then take a deep breath and consider which path to take. The only bad option is not asking for help at all. In the words of Albus Dumbledore from J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts UOW, to those who ask for it.”

an examination of redundancy in the student experience

The world has descended into crisis; pandemic has a choke-hold on the lives of billions. Leaders must decide the fate of nations—how to save a dying economy, a dying population, and a dying way of life.

As Australia shuts down, a generation of university students must begin to tread unknown waters. The shift to online classes is a minor inconvenience compared to the imminence of unemployment. Whilst rent and other bills remain the same, income for young people is stifled.

As a university student, one of my biggest worries is money. How much money will I earn this week? How much money will I spend this week? Where can I save? And why did I just blow my whole pay cheque on a shopping-spree?

Now, with no income, job prospects or eligibility for welfare payments in the face of this crisis, my worries have trebled; and I don’t have to look far to see these concerns echoed by my peers.

I see my reality reflected in the work of Williams and Oumlil (2015). They note that vulnerable groups such as students are more likely to be financially excluded from mainstream financial service provision. This lack of resource access is compounded by irregular income; consequently increasing a university student’s vulnerability to external financial shocks and uncertainty, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am interested in learning about other university student’s spending practices and how they have changed since the switch to remote learning and social isolation. Do these students have redundancy plans in place? What happens to those who do not?

The question I propose is twofold: how do university students spend and save? Are these habits adequate to survive a global crisis, such as the COVID19 pandemic?

An informal, exploratory poll I designed for Twitter yielded the following results:


Though not conclusive, the results of the poll demonstrate that students may be very concerned about their money amidst the current crisis. Yes, a large 38% of respondents are ‘somewhat confident’ about staying afloat financially over the coming months, but a majority 56% lack that confidence to variable degrees.

That only 5.6% of respondents are confident about their money? It does not bode well; hence the need for deeper research to understand why this may be and how this vital aspect of the student experience can be enhanced.

Further Research

A review of existing literature regarding the finances of young people highlights that most studies are older and likely obsolete. Given the dynamic nature of the economy, one could assume that modern student finances have evolved since the early 2000s when research on this topic boomed.

Roberts and Jones (2001) early work suggests that consumer culture and consumption are an epidemic to young people; they link our depression, anxiety and low self esteem with compulsive buying. This source may be out-of-date, but it does start us out on an interesting path to uncovering more about student finances.

A more recent 2017 study by Sundarasen and Rahman concurs with the idea that young adults are drowned by the temptations of a consumer culture induced lifestyle. They identify students as being saddled with debts and unsettled credit cards. This study goes further to suggest that for students, money management/literacy can bring about financial freedom. This study inspires my inquiry into how students save and invest their money, as opposed to only how students spend their money.

Bramforth and Guersen (2017) look into the notion of student savings in their small Melbourne study of university students. They identify three distinct approaches to student money management: conservative, creative and entrepreneurial. An examination of what these money management strategies look like in the UOW cohort may be an interesting pathway in understanding how student finances will be impacted under the pandemic crisis.

Continually, the economic, social and psychological factors affecting undergraduates’ money management behaviours, as identified by Bamforth, Jebarajakirthy and Geursen (2017), will provide greater depth to understandings about student money management both in normal times and during the pandemic crisis; particularly compared to the traditional and two-dimensional focus on undergraduate financial literacy commonly seen in academic works in this field.

In my own research, I will tie these insights together in a comparison of university student money management and redundancy planning duringa crisis. I hope to highlight the very real struggles faced by students in their university experience, and the consequences of this on our lives and livelihoods.

(edited 25/04/20)


References

Bamforth, J & Geursen, G 2017, “Categorising the money management behaviour of young consumers”, Young Consumers, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 205-222.

Bamforth, J, Jebarajakirthy, C & Geursen, G 2017, “Undergraduates’ responses to factors affecting their money management behaviour: some new insights from a qualitative study”, Young Consumers, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 290-311.

Roberts, J & Jones, E 2001, “Money Attitudes, Credit Card Use, and Compulsive Buying Among American College Students”, Journal of Consumer Affairs, Vol. 35, pp. 213 – 240.

Sundarasen, SD & Rahman MS 2017, “Attitude Towards Money: Mediation to Money Management”, Academy of Accounting and Financial Studies Journal, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 1-13.

Williams, A & Oumlil, A 2015, “College student financial capability”, International Journal of Bank Marketing, Vol. 33, pp. 637-653.