Countless times throughout the semester, I find myself sitting at the consultation table with a student that is pained to be in my presence, even though they made the appointment with their own free will. These students come from a variety of backgrounds and, more often than not, have come to the Writing Studio to review their personal statement for their intended (insert name) program. In my experience, many are students in the midst of a stress-induced breakdown over getting into their dream graduate program or medical/law school, and they resist conversation with their consultant from a place of self-doubt. On one occasion, a previously resistant student told me I knew “nothing” about medical practice, yet later admitted he was under a lot of pressure from his family to get into medical school and to already conduct himself “the way a doctor should.”
I try to remind myself that the students who come here with a resistant attitude are trying to cope with the expectations of their future and what the reality is turning out to be. Though this student offered insight into his life and situation willingly, I’ve begun to recognize that “resistance = a chance to connect with the student and check in with them.” By asking the resistant student a question about how their tests are going or for a story of how they came to select this major, I am able to empathize with how stressful this time in their lives is and discuss how some details from their story would make strong points to lead their personal statement with. In doing so, I often feel like their guard diminishes, and this has given me a window to discuss the approach they selected to take in their paper, what information they wanted to include, but didn’t, and so forth.
As consultants, creating a distance between resistance and our feelings can allow us to step back and ask the student how they’re feeling and for details that can redirect the conversation in a positive direction. In the end, some students may remain resistant but can at least leave with a new, thorough discussion in mind if they decide to make changes on their own later.
By Nancy Roque, M.A. in Library and Information Sciences (in progress)