Struggling to Navigate Northwestern Academics? You're Not Alone

For many first-year students, the transition from high school to Northwestern academics can be disorienting, even overwhelming. Yet, for students accustomed to succeeding in school, asking for help can be an alien topic.

With all first- and second-year students now living on campus, Residential Services and Academic Support and Learning Advancement (ASLA) are partnering to connect students with resources, people, and insights to help them navigate Northwestern academics. The collaboration has been extended into winter due to the success of fall ASLA programs held in residential venues, which included an “Insider’s Guide to Quantitative Courses” hosted by Ben Gorvine, Willard Hall’s Faculty-in-Residence. This quarter’s first program promises students an “Insider’s Guide to Reading- & Writing-Intensive Courses” in Elder Hall with Faculty-in-Residence Jacob Smith and Freda Love Smith as well as representatives from the Writing Place and Cook Family Writing Program. (RSVP here through January 21!)


The fall series kicked off in October with a casual dinner in the Shepard Hall Engagement Center, titled “Start Strong and Stay Strong: Advice from the Experts.” A small panel of faculty, advisers, and experienced undergraduates talked about resources, successful study habits, time management, wellness, and the normalization of struggling in college.

“We want students to think of help-seeking as a strength rather than a deficit,” said Borislava Miltcheva, Undergraduate Academic Programs Manager in ASLA. Since Peer-Guided Study Groups and drop-in tutoring already take place in residential spaces, Miltcheva and her colleagues “thought that it would be beneficial and convenient to bring our programs to where students already are.”

Dr. Luke Flores, a panelist and Assistant Director of First-Year and Transition Programs in Weinberg College, appreciates the importance of holding events like this “in a location the students are familiar and comfortable with. Students are so pressed for time, so it is important that we make things easier for students to attend.” Giovanni Gamalong, a Peer-Guided Study Group mentor on the panel, noted that “the setting is more welcoming for students” than a central location like Norris.


“It was cool to discuss solutions for academic problems with people we were already connected with,” said Rhiannon O’Berry, a first-year student in Medill and resident of the Communications Residential College at East Fairchild. “I’ve been kind of struggling, and I didn’t go to anybody. This made me realize that they actually mean it when they say come to us for anything.” The event energized her to return to her room and list specific steps for excelling in each of her classes. “At a school like this, you can’t just float around. You’ve really got to have a plan to navigate it and do it well,” said O’Berry.

But, you’ll never have to do it alone. “I would encourage students to be patient and kind with themselves, and to seek out advice when they feel overwhelmed or confused,” said Flores. “It takes some time to learn how to be an effective college student. With help from the faculty, college advisers, and peer mentors, you will learn the best strategies to succeed.”