It Takes a Village to Graduate

Bookshelves, both online and in stores, are overflowing with self-help books.  These books have merit in that they help people form better habits that will improve their life, but unfortunately, self-help books might be contributing to a notion that people can always help themselves and shouldn’t reach out to others for help.  This is damaging because people are not always capable of helping themselves.  Sometimes, the only thing that will alleviate a situation is asking someone for help.  Over the course of your time at university and beyond, asking for help will become an unavoidable step to success, and so you might as well start practicing now. 

Some people arrive at university with a preconceived notion that the lower-achieving students require the most help, because that’s sort of what it was like in high school.  The reality is the higher-achieving students are the ones using the services available to them the most.  Top students frequently visit their professors’ office hours to gain a better understanding of topics not clear to them.  They also use academic resources to help them write better essays, find better sources, et cetera. 

Simply put, help-seeking behaviour is essential for academic success at university.  The best students go to their profs’ office hours the most, ask the most questions in class, and study in groups to learn from their peers.  There is no heroism in doing it all yourself. 

If you’re still afraid of asking for help because it makes you feel dumb (which it shouldn’t), then perhaps try the following. 

  1. Learn as much as you possibly can before going to office hours.  This way, the prof will be impressed with what you already know and will see you as coming to gain a deeper understanding instead of trying to learn the basics of something. 
  1. Ask your friends for help before asking your prof for help because they’re less scary to approach.  Close friends might be able to help you understand a subject, and they will consequently gain a better understanding of the subject by teaching it to you. 

Help-seeking is a very important skill to learn not only for academic success, but also for success with your mental health.  Everyone gets stressed, everyone gets lonely, and everyone gets down on themselves.  These are all normal variations in mood, but when they persist for long periods of time, weeks, months, or years, it can become difficult to pull yourself out of the dumps.  That’s when asking for help can be useful.  Admittedly, it can be very difficult to open up to someone about your darkest feelings, but doing so to a trusted friend, family member, student leader, or psychotherapist can have profound benefits on your wellbeing. 

Nobody is self-made: every successful person ever had people help them along the way, and currently has advisors, colleagues, families, and assistants that contribute to their lasting success, even if they are “self-made”.