More students seek counseling, Writing Center services

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Photo credit: Kimberly Smith

As the APU student population continues to grow from year to year, recent reports have found that campus services are being utilized much more frequently. As this trend continues, these centers are forced to evaluate how to increase effectiveness of their services to respond to user growth.

University Counseling Center

The University Counseling Center has seen a 29 percent increase over the past two years, currently serving 775 clients a year, according to the UCC annual report obtained by the Clause. According to the Office of Admissions, there was neither a significant increase or decrease in the student body this year.

Assistant Director and Clinical Services Director Joey Sagawa said this 29 percent is similar to current national averages. There is no explicit data explaining the cause of this significant increase, but there are two main hypotheses behind this increased utilization, Sagawa said.

One explanation is that the stigma surrounding the idea of counseling has diminished in culture, and students are now more confident in seeking these types of services. Another possible reason for this growth is that students who in the past may have never been able to reach a collegiate level education are now able to attend universities with the help of today’s medical advances.

“Regardless of the reason, I think it is a good thing that students are coming to centers more and more,” Sawaga said. “The positive statistic on the other end of things is that while utilization rates are going up, in terms of students coming to counseling centers more, suicide rates are going significantly down.”

The counseling center recorded a total of 3,721 sessions in the 2012-2013 school year, according to its annual report. The center offers individual counseling, couples counseling, group counseling, urgent care counseling and various workshops that are held throughout the year and available to enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, according to the website description.

“My life has changed dramatically because of the counseling offered here at APU,” senior communication studies major Angelina Castaneda said. “I thought counseling, from my past experiences, was just me sitting there for an hour talking about my life and then leaving. I felt like [counselors] never did anything, but that all changed when I went [to counseling] through APU.”

The counseling center is unable to serve all interested students, which has been a major complaint made by students about the office in the past according to the report. However, last year the counseling center managed to serve 19 percent more wait-listed students than in the 2011-12 school year.

According to Sagawa, this increase contributes to the UCC’s overall 90 percent placement rate, which is 15 percent higher than the national wait list average. According to the UCC report, the average wait time for a student to be placed is 16 to 18 business days.

“One of the unique things about having a university counseling center on campus is that for those of us who are trained counselors, not only do we have expertise in providing psychotherapy services, but we also have expertise in working with the college population,” Sawaga said.

The office predominately provides its services to undergraduate students and has an equal distribution of appointments across classes. The report shows the largest margin is a roughly 4 percent difference between the sophomore and junior classes. The dominant class using the UCC fluctuates year by year, Sagawa said.

According to the UCLA High Education Research Institute, college students today are generally more “overwhelmed” than they were in the past. APU students are “reporting even higher levels of distress than the national average,” according to the UCC’s most recent National College Health Assessment survey.

The counseling center is currently responding to this increased demand for services by providing a larger number of counseling options, particularly more group sessions. This past year, the UCC added additional group sessions to accommodate more students’ needs.

“I would recommend the counseling center for struggling students,” Castaneda said. “It was one of the things that saved my life during the hardest time of my life.”

The Writing Center

The Writing Center currently serves nearly 14 percent of the student body, which includes both graduate and undergraduate students, according a report published March 1.

The center, like UCC, has also seen growth — it fulfilled 1,000 more appointments than what was reported last year at this time. The center currently has a 71 percent completion rate for appointments made, meaning that share of students who set a dat and time actually come into the office.

The center has served 300 more individual students this year so far in comparison to last year. Numbers are projected to increase by the end of the semester.

According to Director Rebecca Cantor, the Writing Center has recently been in the process of shifting its focus to be more hands-off, which in return has been getting positive responses.

“Although we are increasing, I think we have a long way to go because [the Writing Center] is a free, on-campus resource that students should be using,” Cantor said.

The services provided to undergraduate and graduate students differ, but the Writing Center mainly focuses on in-person consultations, online help and workshops, in addition to providing resources such as handouts and tutorials. Students are limited to two appointments each week and one appointment each day.

“The Writing Center provided an amazing experience and provided a qualified tutor,” sophomore political science major James Warren said. “He knew exactly what he was doing. He was sure of himself, encouraging to the good parts of my writing and offered solid advice on the sections that could use work.”

Generally, the freshman class has recorded the highest number of unique students, and sophomores have consistently been last in this category.

Cantor explains some the growth is a reflection of the office working to becoming more visual and accessible to students, along with the partnerships with faculty members.

Associate Professor of Musicology Claire Fedoruk often requires her students to come into the Writing Center as part of an assignment.

“I have found the Writing Center to be invaluable for many students. I teach musicology at APU, and many music majors have not had any intensive writing requirements before they enroll in my courses,” Fedoruk said. “Most come away with an understanding of how helpful it is for their work to be read by an editor. My ESL students have said they find it especially helpful in understanding context, proper academic tone, citation style and the nuance of the English language.”

According to the Writing Center report, 272 unique courses were represented in the spring of 2013, and over the past three years, the numbers of business and nursing majors have been significantly higher than other majors.

Those interested in the Writing Center’s services are required to first make an appointment, then follow through on their commitment. Students who need to cancel their appointment are encouraged to do so 24 hours in advance, and failure to appropriately cancel appointments three times puts students in jeopardy of losing Writing Center privileges for the remainder of the semester, according to the office’s website.

“They give a lot of good direction on where you need to focus on in a paper,” Warren said. “Instead of looking at the rough draft thinking, ‘What exactly demands my attention at this time?’ the Writing Center helps me zero in and realize what parts are strong and what parts need work, so I can efficiently manage my time and efforts.”

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