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College Is Tough; Here’s What Temple Is Doing to Help

Photo credit: iStock/Christopher Futcher

Photo credit: iStock/Christopher Futcher

You’ve finally sent your kid off to college. Now you’re wondering how they will manage the stress of college-level coursework. You’re right to worry because college demands more.

“Education is a series of transitions,” says Lori Salem, director of the Learning Commons at Temple University. And the transition from high school to college is major. At the same time students gain unprecedented freedom, they take on challenging college courses. Think anatomy and physiology, microeconomics, philosophy, and you get the idea.

College courses require students go way beyond simply memorizing facts for a test. Instead, they have to learn the information at a much deeper level so they can apply it in different contexts. Reading and writing are also more intense in college: the readings are complex…and endless, while the writing assignments are longer.

Small wonder that many students are shaken by such college realities. It might be the first major exam or a big paper or a complicated group project. But at some point students realize that the habits and skills that saw them through high school aren’t going to cut it in college. For some students, that moment of truth comes in the first semester, for others it happens later — often when they start tackling the more advanced courses in their major.

In the past, universities took a hands-off approach to these transitions: If students were struggling, that was their problem. It’s no accident that the earliest tutoring centers were almost always tucked away in basements. Just in case you didn’t feel bad enough about the low grade you got on your essay, the dingy little writing center was enough to drive home the shame. Thankfully, those attitudes have been evolving over time, and most universities now recognize the value of proactively offering academic support throughout a student’s college career.

Temple University is at the leading edge of this change. In 2016, it launched a new Learning Commons, a central hub for multi-faceted academic support that will be located in the heart of Temple’s campus, in the new Snøhetta-designed library.

The Learning Commons offers academic support that is substantial, holistic and tailored to meet the needs of different students.

“We don’t wait for students to come to us; rather, we try to anticipate where support is going to be needed,” said Salem. “One of our major concerns is making sure we reach out to students early, while there is still time to stay on track.”

Support could mean a one-on-one session with a tutor or an academic coach; a study group with fellow students; a workshop; or a writing retreat. It might involve a single appointment, or a semester-long series of workshops. Some services are designed for first-year students, other for advanced graduate students.

The key to the Learning Commons is seeing students’ struggles as productive, and as a normal part of an intense learning process. True learning is challenging, and college is all about making sure that happens. With the Learning Commons, Temple is saying to students “It doesn’t matter where or how you learn–in the classroom, out of the classroom, on your own or with support,  it just matters that you do learn.”

Click here to explore Temple’s impact.