Advice from the Office of Academic Resources (Part 1)

ATTENTION: The Pre-Major Advisor Questionnaire must be completed by Saturday, July 21st!

Hello everyone! For this post, we reached out to three members of the Office of Academic Resources for some advice about transitioning into college and tips on how to thrive academically at Haverford. These interviews will be continued in Part 2 on Thursday!

Who we interviewed:

Peter Granville, Program Coordinator-Office of Academic Resources
Brian Cuzzolina, Director of the Office of Academic Resources
Raquel Esteves Joyce, Assistant Director for Academic Resources

You can check out their full profiles on what they specialize in through the Academic Coaching page of the OAR’s Website!

Some answers are edited or paraphrased for brevity and clarity.

What’s not in your profile on the academic coaching website that you would like first years to know about your role?

Peter’s Answer: My role is very open-ended. I’m super blessed to have this role where there are certain fixed pieces, like supervising interns and organizing OAR events. If you have a big idea, you could turn to me with ideas about student support. My work is more flexible, I can set other things aside to address your needs and devote what I can to it. I’m happy to get tea/coffee and chat about ideas.

Brian’s Answer: My door is always open. We want the OAR to be as close to home as possible. It should feel like a comfortable space to relax and hang out.

Also, our goal is to work more with you. We’re not experts: we’re trained and good at asking questions. The purpose of coaching is for us to learn about you so you can use your strengths towards whatever challenge you’re facing.

Raquel’s Answer: I want students to know that I’m here for them. I’m here to be an academic coach, listening ear, advocate, and sometimes liaison. But basically in terms of academic and socio-emotional needs, I’m here to be what students need, to the best of my abilities.

 

What are some common academic challenges students face as they transition to life at college?

Peter’s Answer – The Newness of It All and Self-Doubt: 

Being alone at college can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure if you feel welcome, and are second guessing if Haverford is the right place. It helps to find a cohort of friends you can go through this process with. Some incoming students have this through Pre-Customs or their athletic teams, but many will find a social network here themselves. Making the most of Customs is important from an academic point of view. Classes will push you in ways you can’t anticipate, so it’s critical to create a support network in the first several weeks.

Also, students experience a lot of self-doubt through first classes. They may think that other students are way better prepared. It’s important not to jump to the conclusion that you’re a worse student or less Haverfordian in any sense. Everyone here is coming with strengths and weaknesses; you can see some people’s strengths more in some classes than in others. Learning where your strengths lie is a process.

Brian’s Answer- Bigger Reading Load and Different Expectations:

The texts are unlike anything students have seen before, both difficulty and content wise. There will be lots of primary sources and seminal texts; this will be reading that graduate students in the social science and humanities are also reading. You’re no longer reading someone’s interpretation, but the text itself. Since Haverford is the typical small liberal arts college experience, you’re going to have small group discussions, sitting around a table with your professor and peers. You’re expected to bring something to the table and contribute, regardless of prior experience. You’ve got to make mistakes, and that’s okay, courses are designed that way. You’re going to be challenged right out of the gate.

Raquel’s Answer – Time Management and Identity:

Time management, in terms of workload. Even if you’re not going to class every day, or doing daily assignments, there are still larger assignments due towards the middle or end of the semester. Sometimes students know the due date of a large paper or project, but don’t know where to start.

Another major challenge is identity crisis. Most students at Haverford were at the top of their classes in high school, but they get here and there isn’t space for everyone to be number one. Students are then really questioning who they are since achievement was part of their identity at high school. I also see a lot of students questioning whether they belong here and whether Admissions made a mistake. It can be difficult to name these feelings; the first step is always the hardest if you’ve never asked for help before. Make that first appointment, no stigma. We’ll ask some questions to get a real sense of who you are and to make connections to your life at Haverford both inside and outside the classroom. Haverford can be fast-paced, which leaves no space for reflection.

 

What does a healthy balance between academic work and social life look like?

Peter’s Answer: Ideally, neither detracts from the other, but this can be an unrealistic expectation. A healthy balance is one where they are symbiotically making each other better. You are engaged socially with your peers such that you feel happy, supported and confident in yourself. Hopefully, that can feed into classroom interactions so you can meet new people and form deep connections.

It’s important to know when balance doesn’t exist anymore, which is when you’re just not happy. You don’t have to shoot for a 4.0; if you do, you will miss out on crucial social experiences. Academic and social life should work in tandem and each should be feeding into the other.

Brian’s Answer: It can depend on who you are, what you value, and what your goals are. In general, sleep is good, even at expense of finishing problem set on time. Food is energy….take care of yourself in terms of basic needs like sleep, and eating. Then, have a social network people around you, that can lift you up through hanging out, checking in, or getting coffee. Don’t isolate yourself.

Raquel’s Answer: This depends on the student’s needs and personality. It’s important to take time to reflect on what you need, and what nourishes you. If you’re an extrovert you’ll be socially emaciated if your social life is stifled by your academic priorities. You need to make sure you get nourishment on one part, to help you with the other part. We can help figure out this balance through one on one OAR coaching and talking with students. We provide tools or use tools to find what works for you. It’s okay if something didn’t work for you, you can come back for another appointment, and we can discuss that. We offer a super personalized experience, so one on one time is critical.

 

What’s your favourite OAR event?

All around, the answer was: Reading Rainbow! In this, the OAR decides a theme and invite presenters (many who are faculty and staff) who feed off of each others’ energy in unscripted conversation, challenge and support each other. You get to learn about professors/staff members in a different light and can have a conversation with them. And as Peter says, “it demonstrates shared experience and humanity through books.”

Peter’s Answer: Reading Rainbow! And I’m also looking forward to an event I’ll be organizing in the fall semester. It’s going to be a panel discussion on joy, centered around the question: how do you cultivate joy given the circumstances of the world we live in? Hopefully, we’ll get to issues of resilience, motivation, love such that an audience member can think about what makes them happy, and how best to shape their experience at Haverford in a way that will sustain them. The discussion will also be recorded for the OAR’s podcast, Compass.

Brian’s Answer: Reading Rainbow! As Ben (Benjamin Hughes) says, it’s something magical!

Raquel’s Answer: Reading Rainbow! And, it will be soon joined with Haverstories, our new writing retreat.

 

Have any questions? Email Blien and Isabel at hc-newstudents@haverford.edu. Also, follow us on Snapchat @FYsquirrel for fun snaps and important updates/reminders!