FIT:Action, however, is not for everyone. The challenge of translating
intention to action means that students – regardless of their profile or difficulties – must agree to fulfil the basic tenets of the program, including
assessments, weekly meetings and follow-up exercises. The fact is that
no one is able to translate intention into action without a deliberate leap.
Students who are struggling often appear passive and unengaged in their
own lives, and we know that the best defence against mental illness is
to create a structure that requires constant engagement, human contact,
personal accountability and plain old work.
More than half of our FIT:Action students are seen by counsellors who
are master’s students in educational counselling, working on an unpaid
practicum. Our program is a highly sought-after placement that is required
to complete graduate degree requirements. Our interns are bright and
caring, have taken essential counselling courses and are highly motivated
to make a difference.
All of our FIT:Action students meet with psychologist John Meissner
and receive copies of all assessment results. In each case, Dr. Meissner
and the student collaboratively develop goals to begin the program, and
these goals provide a starting point. Emphasis is on time management and
work scheduling as well as other learning strategy systems. Students do not
have to talk about personal problems if they don’t want to, but eventually
almost all do because these problems interfere with school.
Students also have their transcripts reviewed in the form of an audit.
In this way they learn what courses they have to take and in what order to
meet department and university requirements. They also come to better
understand what grades they require. As one student noted, “It’s easier
to find out where you are going when you know where you are, and way
better than being lost.”
In our first two years of FIT:Action, we recruited from a pool of stu-
dents who were on probation. At the end of the 2011-2012 school year,
we compared the marks of our FIT:Action students with a group that had
been matched by overall grade point average and program from the previ-
ous year (whom we call the pre-FIT:Action group). All FIT:Action students
had been struggling with academics and life situations that contributed
to academic stress and underachievement.
Our research shows that improved mental health is directly linked to
improved retention. The students in the FIT:Action program made significant improvements (p<.001) in their major grade point average and
overall grade point average, while the comparison group had no changes
in overall GPA and only a trend towards improvement in major GPA
(p<. 10). (See chart on this page.) And, the most recent (2013) FIT:Action
group of students are continuing to show improvement in their GPA.
We were buoyed by these results and sought to recruit students who
felt persistently “overwhelmed,” not just those on academic probation,
Overall Grade Point Average and Major Grade Point Average,
FIT:Action Group and Comparison Group
4. 1 4. 12
4. 22 4. 22
Fall Term Winter Term