My commute to the university is a one and a half mile walk. The start of the working day varies between 8:15 and 10:00 depending upon the firstpoint shift patterns.
I did my undergraduate degree in history, with a postgraduate in the history of medicine. I applied to the university as a community development worker because I am really very much a people person. I love interacting with students, and have valued developing my skills as a firstpoint Adviser. I love the variety of my work, and it is very rewarding to be able to make a difference. As it’s Monday morning we are likely to be busy, but it can sometimes be difficult to accurately predict demand.
We don’t just interact with students once they’ve registered .From around April onwards we receive a number of pre-entry enquiries from prospective students and their parents. A lot of questions are about what Student Services offers, including the university’s funding provision. As a firstpoint adviser I need to have good knowledge of a broad range of support services as well as effective problem solving skills.
It often seems as though my job mainly consists of individual conversations with students – this can be face to face at the counter, or via email or phone. Some are straightforward transactions – giving out DBS forms or taking payment for a field trip. Others can be far more complex, time consuming, and emotionally demanding scenarios. For example, a student who is faced with health problems is considering applying for mitigating circumstances, however she is faced with a lengthy procedure, and is worried about the implications of this and how they will be viewed by members of staff. I take the time to explain the process and help her to understand it’s impact. We will always take a holistic view and try to find a solution for the student. Over the year the work is cyclical in nature – initial feelings of homesickness and isolation, then things begin to settle, the approach to Christmas creates financial worries, and then exam anxiety kicks in.
The depth and breadth of the team’s work surprises a lot of people. We can often solve the student’s issue without the need for a referral to a more specialist service.
I take half an hour for lunch (time dependent upon shift pattern), where I usually read in the staff room. It is a brief opportunity to switch off.
Early afternoon brings students attending their booked appointments with money advice, careers or student support.
It’s nearly the end of the shift and I need to immediately find a colleague to cover in firstpoint as one of my co-workers has gone home unwell. There must be two members of staff present at all times as we provide a full cashier service Luckily another member of Student Services volunteers so it’s yet another problem solved.
My messages to University Staff:
Should you have concerns about a student you are welcome to call or email us, and we can explain how to access the appropriate service.
Our number is 01905 54 2551 or email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember we are able to offer access to a large range of services through firstpoint, encourage students to come and ask the questions themselves – sometimes it may be a simple solution or a more complex case with lots of underlying issues needing a holistic approach.