My college career is over. It’s both shocking and incredibly disappointing because I only had a semester and a half before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world forever. I was a junior before I moved into an apartment. Mental health issues overtook the fall semester of my junior year. The spring semester of my junior year was the only semester that was close to normal, but some organizations still required COVID tests, and some people still worked remotely. This semester, the fall semester of my senior year, is my last semester, and I am spending it in New York (I wrote an article earlier in the semester about my thoughts on New York after a month of living here, which you can find here)! Don’t get me wrong, spending my last semester in New York is so cool and an amazing privilege, but definitely not the normal college experience. As the next class of students begins their college careers and others are still getting used to having all in-person activities, I want to recommend what is important to do while at UT-Austin and what the best resources from UT-Austin are the best!
Disclaimer: I will talk about resources I’ve used or have second-hand experience. You can find the list of resources UT-Austin offers here.
- Go to things, even if it is by yourself! Being comfortable with your own company is so important, and college is the perfect space to get comfortable with being alone. Just because you are alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely.
- Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid: I don’t have extensive experience with this office. At the beginning of my freshman year, I had a specific situation that I needed help with, and I received so many different answers from this office. Additionally, at the beginning of every semester, people complain on social media about the system’s complexity and slow response times. Most students will need to be in contact with this office at some point, so you can’t avoid it, but remember to stay patient. There are more than 50,000 students at UT, and most of them have to go through this office for something at some point, so they are a bit busy.
- Disability and Access (previously known as Services for Students with Disabilities): Please, please, please register with Disability and Access if you can. If you have the resources to get a proper diagnosis, do so as soon as possible. If you have any type of disability, it is completely fair for you to have accommodations. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t give you a step up; it puts you on a fair playing ground with the rest of your classmates. After you send in your paperwork, the office will contact you to set up a meeting. In the meeting, you will discuss how your disability impacts your school work and daily life and sign paperwork to secure your accommodations. The difficult part of having accommodations comes when you have to talk to your professors about your accommodations. Some professors are incredibly accommodating, and some professors refuse to provide accommodations, especially if your accommodations include flexibility with attendance and deadlines. Regardless of the professors, this resource is so worth it if you need it.
- Student Emergency Services: I, luckily, never had to use Student Emergency Services. I talked to them to provide my professors with proof of a positive COVID-19 test, but nothing past that. However, I have heard good things when students reached out to them for help during the pandemic and during Winter Storm Uri.
- Student Ombuds Services: Personally, never utilized. None of my conflicts escalated to this point, but if your conflict does, I have also heard good things!
- Behavior Concerns and COVID-19 Advice Line (BCCAL): Never used, but not helpful, according to my best friend and other people who have talked about it on social media. The hotline does the same thing as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and other mental health hotlines, which is recommending basic self-care tasks. For some, this is helpful. For others, this feels demeaning. Overall, it depends on what you need if this would be a helpful service.
- Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC): I reached out to them to set up an appointment with a counselor, and they told me that my issues were out of their scope, so they could only send me recommendations. The recommendations could have been better as some of the offices weren’t open anymore or not taking clients. After this, I did a few group sessions with them, which I am indifferent towards. The majority of the student population would probably agree that CMHC is underfunded and lacks the resources necessary to provide good care to students. However, it is better to reach out to them if you are struggling rather than not doing anything.
- SURE Walk: I’ve used SURE Walk multiple times before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. While there were long wait times, it was still helpful and I would recommend using, especially if you’re a woman or feminine presenting.
- Title IX Office: I am so grateful not to have used this resource, but with that, I don’t want to speak on behalf of sexual assault victims who have used this resource. A student at UT-Austin, Pramika Kadari, does a great job of advocating for sexual assault survivors at UT-Austin. She has a great Instagram post about “How UT Austin’s Title IX office failed me as a sexual assault victim + what they need to do better in the future,” which explains the downfalls of this resource.
- University Writing Center: I only went once or twice, but both times they were helpful and helped me realize what I needed to work on.
- HornsLink: HornsLink can be outdated, but it does list all of the organizations at UT-Austin, so be sure to check it out when you are figuring out what organizations you want to join!
Lastly, people will always tell you to try to form a good relationship with your professor, and they are right! When applying for jobs or graduate school, it will be helpful to have at least a few professors you can ask for a reference or a letter of recommendation. They are also (sometimes) intelligent people, and you can learn a lot from them!
Overall, you pay so much for this university’s resources and should be taking advantage of them when you need them!