It can be hard to reach out for help, even when we need it. Maybe asking for help strikes at our desire for independence, triggering fears of appearing incapable, lazy, or incompetent. It might be that we prefer to only ask family members or inner-circle friends for help. Or it could be our awareness of power differentials between instructors and students.
When I first started my journey at Walden, asking for help felt like admitting defeat, but my education was too important for me to allow fear, pride, my cultural background, or presupposed ideas to get in the way of progress. It was challenging to ask for help at first, but I’ve learned some things that have made it much more comfortable. I hope that these ideas will help you ask for help when you need it. After all, no one is born knowing everything. We all have to start somewhere, and in any situation, knowing that we need help is the first step to change.
Maintain Independence by Showing Initiative When Asking for Help
Do some research and be prepared before sending an email or setting up an appointment. If you have an appointment for a live chat, video conference, or phone call, make a list of your questions and be prepared to take notes on the answers you receive for later reference. Having notes in front of you will help you stay on track if you get nervous or flustered during the appointment. It is also a good idea to be able to show the effort you have already made. Communicating what you have tried and what options you have already explored will demonstrate your dedication and make the process feel collaborative.
Don’t Forget Self-Serve Resources
Sometimes you can find answers on your own, without having to contact a specific individual. Walden has a number of resources available to you; one place to ask any question is Walden’s Quick Answers website which is filled with answers to all kinds of self-service questions. Also, Charlotte Bot, located in the bottom right corner of your myWalden portal homepage, can address many issues, including financial aid status, portal troubleshooting, email access, and internet browser difficulties. These self-serve resources can help you get answers quickly and independently.
Use Proper Etiquette
Sometimes your question may be more individualized or complex, requiring you to reach out to an individual; this is where knowledge of etiquette comes in handy! Communicating with staff and instructors can be intimidating, particularly if you’re not confident in email or phone etiquette. These are learned skills that require practice. There’s no shame in not knowing how to do something you’ve never had to do before. Fortunately, there is help! Rhemma Payne, a peer mentor, offers an excellent blog on email etiquette.
Remember that Staff are Here to Help
At first, I hesitated to ask for help because I didn’t want to bother anyone, but now I understand that my education is my responsibility. Nobody can help me if they don’t know I need help, and it is my responsibility as a student to reach out when I need clarification or instruction. In my experience, instructors appreciate students who are actively engaged, who communicate, and who are willing to seek information. It can be intimidating, but every person I have ever spoken to at Walden, either through email, phone, or a virtual appointment, has assured me that they are here to help.
Asking for help can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be! In fact, asking for help allows you to get to know Walden staff and build a support network. Behind the names and the titles lie real, live human beings who genuinely want to see all Walden students succeed. You have the opportunity to meet some fantastic people while completing your degree, so don’t let fear or anxiety hold you back. You’ve got this! Just remember that everyone needs a little help sometimes, and what you learn from reaching out will help you pay it forward.
Jody Nelson is currently a student in the BS Human Services program and an Undergraduate Peer Mentor with the Academic Skills Center. She plans to pursue an MSW and is interested in serving diverse and international communities.