By Aaron Daves, contributor
Like most college students, Sierra Kimberlin works to get an education. However, she describes her experience as an unpaved, hindered journey.
“My mind would be at ease if I could find a quiet place to study, tune everything out and focus strictly on academics. Unfortunately, that’s not reality,” said Kimberlin, 20, junior psychology student at UNC Asheville.
Kimberlin said she pays for school and off-campus housing out of her own pocket and works a part-time job in the mall.
“It can be anxiety inducing, having to pay rent, working a job, all while trying to make school the number one priority,” Kimberlin said. “My primary reason for going to school is to get an education, but it’s hard when the stressors of the outside world are constantly lingering. I already have bills and loans to pay off.”
She said the faculty at UNCA take into account the combined weight of academic, social and economic pressures placed on students.
“One advantage of being at a liberal arts school is the empathy that exists here. While I expect my professors to give me work and prepare me for the real world, it’s comforting to know I have them as an outlet to talk about my struggles,” Kimberlin said.
Kimberlin said the need for a grading system should exist alongside the process of education within college.
“While there is a need to make good grades, I try not focusing on my rank within a system. I see success in the process of learning,” she said.
Tracey Rizzo, a history professor at UNCA, said there is an abundance of resources on campus that students can utilize.
“You have the writing center with well-qualified tutors and a good amount of peer tutoring. In New Media Hall, students will sit in the foyer and talk about their studies,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo said UNCA’s One Stop suspension service benefits students when they take advantage of it.
“They have a system set up to where if a student is on academic suspension, they are required to seek learning services to advance their way back into the university,” Rizzo said. “However, I know students who’ve gone before the point of suspension. If you are willing to seek help, they will accommodate you.”
Rizzo said she understands the pressures students face outside of school.
“Faculty and I encourage students to approach us if they are falling behind. There are always solutions we can work with depending on the situation. I think the biggest problem students have is speaking up and asking for help,” she said.
Rizzo said she is creating a syllabus that not only outlines assignments, but also marks key points in the schedule leading up to a due date.
“You see it a lot with incoming freshmen. They come from the high school environment of having checkpoints before turning in the final product,” Rizzo said. “With this syllabus, we are advising students to be mindful of time management.”
Corey Howard, 22, a recent business graduate at East Carolina University and teller at PNC Bank, said that utilizing time and study groups aided him with learning.
“Working in groups allows you to take on different roles, establish relationships with peers, take on another’s perspective and provides easier communication within an assignment,” Howard said.
Howard said school was his top priority before entering the workforce as a bank teller.
“I always made an effort to set aside a time of day for school work and studying. It was then that I made time for other things that were important to me,” he said.
Howard said simply attending class and utilizing his campus resources were key to his success as a graduate.
Marianne Burris, 21, junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, said she learns best by studying independently outside of class, engaging with the course materials on her own time.
“It tends to vary from time to time, but I honestly love learning from the textbook over the hands-on approach because it is a structurally set resource that’s easy to rely on,” Burris said.
Burris does not have a job other than her full-time commitment to school, but she said outside distractions have a way of finding her.
“When I see my friends going out and having fun, this distracts me from my school work. Sometimes, I’ll even join them for a night out. The social pressure is real,” she said.
Burris said she tries practicing mental techniques to aid her studying habits.
“There are many outside influences that can make or break a student’s academic progress,” Rizzo said. “However, if school work is spaced out on a daily schedule, this can help anyone wanting to pursue an education. You’ve got to learn time management. It, in itself, is a valuable resource.”