Understanding Today's Student

Who are our students? What are their needs? How can we help them?

Today many students come to the University of Minnesota with complex issues that can have a major impact on their lives as students. The stress typically associated with the college years may be compounded by social, health, financial, family, and work issues. As a result, some students may experience a decline in academic performance, engage in harmful behaviors such as substance abuse and attempts at suicide, or exhibit other symptoms of distress. As a faculty or staff member you may come into contact with students who share information or exhibit behaviors that indicate that they are in need of assistance with a problem or concern. This contact provides you with a unique opportunity to refer students to appropriate resources. Such action may be a critical factor in saving students' academic careers - or even their lives.

How to tell when a student needs help

Unfortunately, there is no magic number or combination of indicators which definitively prove that a student is in need of assistance. The existence of several indicators, however, may show a pattern of behavior that needs to be investigated. In such instances, you may wish to share your concern directly with the student, consult one of the campus resources for advice, or refer the student to an appropriate resource. The following indicators will help alert you to a student who may need assistance:

  • Radical/abrupt change in behavior
  • Sudden withdrawal from interaction with faculty, staff, and peers
  • A dramatic decrease in academic performance
  • A decline in class attendance and/or participation
  • Sudden outbursts of anger or crying
  • Chronic fatigue or low energy
  • High levels of irritability
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene
  • References to suicide
  • References to hopelessness and despair
  • Recent major life trauma, such as the death or serious illness of a loved one
  • Excessive use of alcohol or other drugs