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Is College The Best Time Of life?
Inspite of having counselors in colleges, the problems faced by the students are yet to be resolved.
Cut-throat competition, pushy parents, peer pressure, broken relationships-life certainly isn't a bed of roses for young adults. And often they need to be rescued from themselves as the recent suicides indicate. A student from IIT-Kanpur, another from IIT Powai, and several students before them have ended their lives due to problems personal or academic is indicative of the tightrope hat most youngsters have to walk.

The dilemma which now confronts teachers and parents alike, is how to determine the breaking point for their ward. And counsellors, a relatively new addition to city colleges are expected to help them figure out when a student has had enough.

Ever since the government and the University Grants Commission made the approval of the National Assessment Accreditation Council mandatory, most colleges have got themselves a counsellor on the campus to sort out student angst. Unfortunately, the measure is proving inadequate and as teachers themselves concede, the arrangement is not really helping students.

Says counselling psychologist Sheetal Ravi of Disha Counselling Centre, and who counsels at a city college, "I visit the college once a week. You won't believe the number of students who come to me for individual assistance..."

They have communication problems and low self-esteem. There is a tremendous need to conform to a ground to become popular. These problems manifest themselves in different ways. But the efforts to solve them are very few. What colleges need is counsellors being part of the faculty in order to help students tide over these tough phases." Agrees Swati Salunkhe, director of Growth Centre, "Most colleges have part-time counsellors who come in twice or thrice a week and they are very few in numbers-one counsellor for 3,000 students. As a result of this students cannot access when they need them most."

Shortage of funds, a lack of understanding on part of the trustees are the problems colleges face. Often, colleges which have a department of psychology, let students counsel other students. Others ask counselling centers like Disha and Growth to conduct workshops and seminars students as and when funds allow.

Now add to these limitations the stigma attached to a visit to the psychologist (counselling centers in colleges are often referred to as 'selfdevelopment centres') and admitting that one has a 'problem.'

Senior lecturer at Jai Hind College Anuradha Kalhan feels that services rendered by the counsellor are really undervalued in most colleges.

"Students need to be told repeatedly that a therapist is there to help them sort out their problems. He or she needs to be introduced to students, taken to every class, shown where his or her office is. Once they know the person, they are more likely to approach him in their hour of need," she says. Being attached to a hospital for psychological consultation where more complicated cases can be referred to is also an alternative," suggests Kalhan.

Also in many cases, say Ravi and Salunkhe, lecturers so inclined should be taught basic counselling skills, usually because they are the first ones who students approach with their problems. "Teachers could be trained to offer first aid. Colleges themselves could conduct more workshops on personality development or other life skills like team-building or leadership in order to make counselling a regular part of the college experience," offers Ravi.
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Posted on : 7/12/2005
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