how to ask for help at uni

This piece was originally published on the UOW Digital Media Society website.

Asking for help in any situation can be intimidating. It can be difficult to face the vulnerability of admitting that you can’t do something alone. But, the great thing about university is that nobody expects you to have all the answers.

When I was in high school I was sold a lie by many of my teachers. I believed them when they said that my future university lecturers and tutors would not give a damn about me nor my personal struggles. That to them, I was just a number, just another face in a crowd, just another paper to mark.

After three years studying a Bachelor of Communications and Media at UOW, I can safely say that none of this is true. University is supposed to be a place of learning and growth and the academics here understand that journey. They are our advocates and we can trust in them to do right by us if we put the effort in.

Despite this, showing up at an academic’s door to ask a question can still be a challenge. So here are some tips to nudge you in the right direction:

Send an email

Sending an email can be a lot less scary than asking a question face to face. When you write an email, you get acute control over every little detail from the wording to how you frame your situation. If you’re anxious about not communicating exactly what you’re issue is then this is a great option. Alternatively, using an email as a prelude to a face to face meeting can help lay the groundwork for an easier conversation.

Ask after class

If your main concern is intruding on your lecturer or tutor’s time, then asking a question after class can be a good way to get around that. Most academics invite questions during or after their classes which makes this even easier.

Make sure you’ve covered all bases

Sometimes you might worry about looking naive for asking for help from a lecturer or tutor. Often this comes from a place of self-doubt about our own abilities as a student and budding professional. A good way to combat these feelings is to make sure you’ve searched for the answers elsewhere first. This includes looking in the subject outline, double checking Moodle, and looking through your lecture notes for any helpful hints that might have been dropped by your lecturer. This is also a good way of seeking help without actually having to talk to anyone, so if you’re a hardcore introvert then take note.

Try asking at the Library

A lot of the library staff are students like us. They have a lot of knowledge about the best ways to research, reference and do all manner of academic things. If you feel more comfortable talking to someone who is also a student then the library could be your best option.

The door is always open (during consultation hours)

The consultation times you can find in your subject outlines are there because your tutors and lecturers genuinely wan’t to see you. They wan’t you to ask for help if you feel stuck and they wan’t you to have the best chance possible to thrive. I can guarantee that you will be welcome should you choose this course of action

So if you need help with your studies then take a deep breath and consider which path to take. The only bad option is not asking for help at all. In the words of Albus Dumbledore from J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts UOW, to those who ask for it.”