Set yourself up for a successful school year by leveraging school resources

students wearing masks, in a classroom sitting down and raising their hands

You’ve found the perfect continuing education program for the fall. Your laptop is charged, you picked your classes, you’re ready to learn. What else can you do in these final weeks before you start school to make sure you’ll have what you need to succeed?

Set the tone for a terrific year by scoping out your school’s resources in the following areas:

headshot of Moira Kelley
Moira Kelley, educational counselor, UW–Madison Continuing Studies

Academics. You’re investing in your future through education. Make sure that investment pays off by taking advantage of resources available to help you achieve academic goals. First, reach out to the advising office at your school and establish a relationship with an advisor. Many schools also offer a “success coach” – does yours? Ask your advisor about whether your school has study skills courses, tools or workshops. If not, there are plenty of resources available through LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, educationcorner.com and other online sources.

Determine if your school has tutoring services or consider finding a tutor in your subject area by contacting your academic department. In almost any program you enter, you’ll need to write well. See if your school has a writing center. If not, public libraries often offer writing support. Speaking of libraries, connect with your school’s library early to tap into their multitude of academic services – from reference librarians to study spaces.

Health. Throughout your student journey, you’ll want to stay as healthy as possible – physically and emotionally. Contact your school’s health services department and get a lay of the land. Do you need and do they offer insurance? Mental health services? How do you make appointments? Do they have online resources such as meditation, yoga or health newsletters to keep you on track? If you have a disability, check in with health services and the disability center at your school to establish a plan for getting the assistance you need, such as note-taking, sign language or a host of other services.

Finances. Even if you don’t qualify for financial aid, it doesn’t hurt to check in with your school’s financial aid office to touch base and see if there are other options available to fund your education. Do they have jobs for students, grant programs, scholarships? And do they have emergency financial aid available for students in crisis? It helps to know what’s out there as you plan your budget.

If you’re not sure where to go and you want to learn more about the support landscape at your school, start with the dean of students office. The dean of students provides student support and oversees the experience of attending a college or university. They can connect you to resources across campus.

You can also contact us at UW–Madison Continuing Studies, even if you won’t be attending school here. No matter where you go, don’t go it alone. Reach out and leverage resources available to you to launch yourself into a successful school year.

The Lifelong Learner is a monthly feature written by UW–Madison’s Continuing Studies staff. Moira Kelley is an educational counselor with UW–Madison Continuing Studies and can be reached at moira.kelley@wisc.edu. This article first appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on August 8, 2021.