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Support for Students in Higher Education

Support for Students in Higher Education

Author: Alison DeRudder

Identify best practices for seeking academic help in higher education.

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Tutorial Audio

what's covered
This tutorial focuses on getting the support you need to perform your best in higher education by first emphasizing the fact that all students need help, then discussing when and how to ask for help, and finally detailing the different kinds of help that can be available. Here is what’s covered:
  1. All Students Need Help
    1. Tutoring Services
    2. Disability Services
    3. Veterans’ Services
  2. When to Ask for Help
  3. How to Ask for Help

1. All Students Need Help

It’s inevitable that you will need help during your time in higher education. There is no shame and no stigma in it; all students need help in some form at some point.

This is why the following services that provide help for students are built into the higher education infrastructure:

  • Tutoring services
  • Disability services
  • Veterans' services

Students who seek help are not inferior to students who do not seek help. To the contrary, making productive use of all the resources that are available is a habit of a successful student.

1a. Tutoring Services
A tutor provides individual instruction for students seeking additional or special assistance with their education. Tutoring can take place either in person—at a tutoring center or designated offsite location—or online via chat, video chat, or an exchange of draft documents and feedback.

In some cases, certain tutors or tutoring centers will specialize in specific subjects or skills, but you should be able to find help with any subject you are struggling with.


A writing center is a resource that helps you with your writing in any subject.

The extra time and individual attention a tutor can provide can make a significant difference for a student having trouble.


What are some specific examples of tutoring services you might be able to take advantage of?
  • Writing centers: The aforementioned writing center is a great place to take a draft of something you are writing for expert feedback and consultation about how to move forward.
  • Peer tutors: Perhaps you would be more comfortable talking to or working with a fellow student? In addition to professional tutors, a lot of schools offer the services of peer tutors.
  • Online tutoring services: Maybe you’re in an online class and you don’t have access to a campus or tutoring office—are you out of options? No! Check and see if your school has online tutoring opportunities. If not, there are independent commercial services you might use, like
  • Specific tutoring services: What if you need a specific kind of help? Often, specific tutoring services are available that might cater to English language learners or students with disabilities.

1b. Disability Services
Disability services are an increasingly significant part of the educational mission of institutions of higher learning. The role of disability services is to provide equal access to educational resources and opportunities to students who have some form of disability. Broadly defined, a disability is a physical or mental condition that limits or impairs a student’s participation or potential for success in their education.

Students frequently consult disability services regarding a wide range of medical or psychological conditions including anxiety, attention deficit, dyslexia, visual or hearing impairment, or issues with mobility or comfort in the physical classroom environment.

Disability services work to provide what are commonly called accommodations for students. Accommodations are essentially solutions to problems of access and opportunity; they are special circumstances or allowances made for students with a disability. Common accommodations include offsite exams, extended time limits for exams or extensions on assignment due dates, use of technology when not ordinarily permitted, or assistance with note-taking.


While there are lots of services available in college to students with disabilities, it is important to note the differences between high school and college in terms of disability services.

In high school, students with disabilities often have what’s called an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). You will not have an IEP in college because, by law, colleges don’t fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This means they aren’t legally obligated to provide specialized instruction. However, colleges are required to abide by civil rights laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, which ensure equal access and prevent discrimination. In college, it is the student’s responsibility to register with disability services.

1c. Veterans’ Services
If you are a military veteran, your college or university most likely has special services available to you. The G.I. Bill has been helping veterans meet their educational goals since World War II.

In addition to the G.I. Bill, educational benefits offered to veterans include federal, state, and private education programs, scholarships, and college funds. Benefits may be available to children or spouses of veterans as well.

2. When to Ask For Help

Basically, you should ask for help whenever you need it and it is available to you. It’s best to think about and address any concerns you have as soon as possible.


If you’ve struggled with exam-related anxiety in the past, but you’re not sure how it will affect you this term, you might register with disability services so that a plan is in place if you end up struggling when the test approaches.

This doesn’t mean you should ask for help immediately whenever a challenge presents itself. First take time and care in considering whether you can meet the challenge on your own. Then determine whether your specific problem falls under the purview of any of the services available to you. If you do in fact need the help and it is out there for you, don’t hesitate to make use of it!

3. How to Ask For Help

If you’re not sure exactly what kind of help you need or where you can get it, it might be a good idea to talk to an advisor, an instructor, even an experienced peer—in other words, ask for help about how to ask for help!

If you’d rather figure it out on your own, services like the ones covered earlier in this tutorial—tutoring, disability, and veterans'—most likely have both physical offices and websites. If you can locate these, either on campus or on the internet, you might stop in or write an email to the relevant person to schedule an appointment. The purposes of these offices and the jobs of the people you’ll find there are to help students just like you, so, again, you shouldn’t hesitate to get in touch—there’s no shame in it!

All students need help, so there is nothing wrong with seeking assistance when you are struggling. Your school has resources, including tutoring services, disability services, and veterans’ services, that you should make use of when needed. Successful students know when to ask for help and how to ask for help.