Friday, February 27, 2015

Support System for Success

Grid outlining elements of success: Collaborative Partnerships, Inclusive Leadership, Flexible Resources, Professional Development, complemented by: Academic Rigor & Support, Social Support, Data Use and P-16 Alignment.

This article by the Pathways to College Network, Social Support: An Essential Ingredient to College Success, offers some practical advice you can apply in all areas of your life.

No one creates success by themselves.
We all like to be independent and accomplish things on our own, but the truth is that you cannot achieve everything you want to accomplish in life on your own. No one can. You must be able to work with and receive help from other people in order to achieve the success that you desire in college and in life. One characteristic of successful people is that they look for others who can help them achieve the outcomes they want in life.

You attract help from others by keeping your commitments.
When you get help from other people, you are able to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time while learning many new things in the process. One way to attract people into your life who can become part of your support system and offer you help is to keep your commitments. When other people see your strong commitment to achieving your goal of a college degree, they will be more committed to helping you reach that goal. For example, if you make an appointment with a counselor, advisor, or a tutor be sure to show up and show up on time. If you ask your family to help you with household chores or babysit your children so you can study, make sure you use the time wisely for your studies. Keeping your commitments also has the added benefit of improving your self-esteem and respect for yourself, two benefits which will attract more people to be part of your support system.

Get feedback from others. You can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame.
Having a support system provides feedback from others around you so that you can see where you need to make improvements. This allows you to focus on the right things to improve instead of wasting time in unnecessary areas. For example, consider each teacher you have as part of your support group. If your English teacher keeps marking the same misspellings within your papers, recognize that you are receiving constructive feedback. Rather than focusing on yourself with such negative statements as “I never could spell” or “I don’t think she should be so picky,” take the feedback and insert an action step that will allow you to learn to spell those words correctly once and for all.

If you specifically ask the people in your support system for constructive input, their advice can help you grow and achieve your goals. For example, if you feel that you are not doing as well as you should in your college courses, you could make an appointment to go see a counselor to ask them what areas they think you could work on improving. You can also email your instructors for additional insight. If you have a family member who is part of your support system, you could share with that person a problem you are having and ask that person to help you think of a solution to the problem. For example, you might find that you are struggling to identify extra study time you need in order to prepare for a particularly challenging class. You could share this problem with your spouse and ask him or her to help you carve out additional time you can use for studying. The solution might be as simple as the two of you agreeing to eat canned stew and fruit for supper every Tuesday night as a way to simplify your meal planning and preparation time during the week. Or the solution might be as simple as taking your spouse’s feedback to heart when you recognize the truth within it. For instance, if your spouse points out that you tend to be a perfectionist, he or she may be right! Ironically, being a perfectionist can be a weakness. Perhaps the two of you could identify an area in your life that could be altered without negative consequences. Is it really so bad if you launder sheets every two weeks instead of every week? When you recognize a weakness, let constructive feedback lead you to be solution oriented.

Don’t be afraid to try new things that are suggested by people in your support system. For instance, if you meet with a counselor, she may ask you to describe how you study for a test. She may suggest that you try a new way of studying. This new way of doing something may be hard at first because it’s different, but you may find that the strategy becomes easier as you get more practice using it and even more importantly, you may find that your counselor was right: using the strategy helps you earn a higher grade. Trying new things means that you are learning and growing; this is often uncomfortable at first, but leads to success in the long run. Successful people are constantly challenging themselves to try new things and attempting to do things they haven’t done before.

Surround yourself with the right people to help you grow.
The most important part of your support system is the people within it that will challenge your thinking. These people are dedicated to helping you learn, grow and succeed in college and in life. It is your job to seek out and surround yourself with the right people who can help you grow. You might begin by joining an organization at college that will fuel your success by helping you meet other students who want to learn and grow such as an Honor Society. Another way to learn and grow is to look for a part time job or a volunteer position that is related to your college major. This will allow you to gain knowledge and experience, while flexing your thinking skills about course material above and beyond what you get from textbooks and lectures. This experience also allows you to start building a network of professional people who can help you launch your career by providing references for you or even by hiring you on a full-time basis when you are ready to enter the job market. Depending on your personal likes, hobbies, and beliefs, support can often come from attending church groups, social organizations, extended family, and friends.

Shared by Rio Salado's Counseling Services, helping students with their personal, educational and career goals.

Pathways to College Network. (2007) Boston, MA: Author.