It is important to be aware of the non-academic factors that impact college students in order to support them in their goal to complete a degree.
Tell me about your support system. Do you have any responsibilities that could impact your academic life? Who do you admire the most and why? Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle. How were you able to do this? What did you learn from this experience?
These are the kinds of questions we ask of students who are interested in being a part of the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) program at Lincoln Land Community College.
We can get technical information about students’ grade point average, testing scores and financial aid status from the college’s computer data system. However, the system does not tell us about our students’ hopes and dreams, their struggles and challenges, or their areas of strength and resilience. This is also vital information to know about a student in order to support them fully and holistically throughout their journey to navigate college successfully.
In the TRIO program, we recognize that each student has a variety of roles they play in life in addition to being a student. Other roles can include employee, supervisor, parent, caregiver for a parent, entrepreneur, athlete, artist, volunteer … and the list goes on. College is just one aspect of their often very full lives.
There are over 2,800 TRIO programs nationwide. They are funded by competitive grants awarded by the Department of Education through the Higher Education Act of 1965.
The TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) program is one version of eight different types of TRIO programs providing targeted academic support for students from diverse and disadvantaged groups. The SSS mission is designed to help students at two-year institutions eliminate barriers to their persistence, maintain good academic standing and transfer to a four-year institution. This is an important and specialized function, because many students do not have college knowledge.
When a student has family members or friends who have completed a college degree, they can go to them for advice when they have questions about college. However, many students navigate college completely on their own. They may be the first person in their family to attend college. That is where the TRIO SSS program comes in to give them support and guidance in all the various and sometimes complicated aspects of going to college.
The decision to go to college has similarities with the decision to travel to a foreign country. Imagine a person wanting to travel to a foreign destination, outside of her or his comfort zone. Looking at a map will help her choose the destination, but she still must figure out how she is going to get there, what new languages and cultures will be experienced upon arrival, and what she may need to do to adjust to a new environment.
The decision to go to college is a lot like this!
A student has chosen a destination – to go to college. From that one decision there are many questions that follow – how do I register for classes? What classes should I take? How much will it cost? Are there scholarships available?
Once on campus, students begin to realize that college is a world with its own unique culture and language. Students able to quickly learn the lingo we use to talk to them about their academic pathway, and the rules of engagement for students, staff and faculty, will have an advantage.
Also, students will have to identify areas of personal growth in need of development in order to adapt successfully in the college environment. Most students will have to up-level their study skills, develop self-discipline, refine their social skills and get a handle on their time management in order to achieve their goals.
Throughout this process, the TRIO program works one-on-one with students to create an academic road map based on their academic and career goals, financial need and personal barriers. TRIO staff conduct academic check-ins with students so that they do not get lost academically or socially. Also, we promote a sense of belonging among TRIO students that starts with TRIO staff and extends throughout every department in the college. It is important that they, and all students, know that there are many guides and supporters for them here at Lincoln Land Community College.