College Survival Tips for Students with Disabilities (and everyone else)

College Survival TipsCollege Survival Tips for Students with Disabilities (and everyone else)

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1.Plan ahead.

We know it’s a drag, but a few minutes planning ahead will pay off in better grades, less stress, and more time to have fun. Use a calendar, whether on your phone, pc, or paper, and record all upcoming quizzes, projects, and exams. Add in checkpoints for those projects that will take up a large amount of time. For example, if your paper is due in two months, set up reminders for when you’ll begin your paper, set your outline, do research, revise, check to see that it covers everything the professor asked for, and finally check grammar and print or email to your prof.

2. Remember to check your calendar.

This sounds like one of those – really – you’re telling me this? kinds of tips. Many students do a great job of setting up that initial calendar, but fail to look at it after the first week. Set aside a specific time each day to look at your calendar. It only takes a second. If you really hate it, give yourself a reward for checking!  Look at what’s coming up for the week and what’s expected for the next couple of weeks. Add any changes the prof may have made. You might highlight those in your notes so you’ll remember to place them on your calendar. This isn’t high school – some profs will remind you of upcoming assignments, but others will expect you to do this on your own.

3. Study hard!

Studying hard and succeeding in class is the most important thing about college. After all, it will be what leads you into the career and adult life you wish to have. This does not mean college needs to be boring. Create study groups. Study in groups for tests and projects, maybe even research papers. Or, if groups are not your thing, set up specific times to study and find locations that work for you, whether it’s alone in your room or on a bench at the park. Celebrate your studying success. College is not a piece a cake. You have to work hard for that A. Your grade is a true result of the work you put into the class. Study, study, study, and when you think you’ve studied enough, study some more and when you get that A, be proud and celebrate!

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Professors have office hours to meet with students. If you are struggling in a class or need advice in how to improve in their class, sent up an appointment to speak with the professor.  If you are in need of help in all of your classes and you just can’t seem to figure out a way that works for you to succeed in all of the classes,  meet with your advisor. They may help you or direct you to the department or individual who will be able to help you.

5. Get to know your professor.

Your professor is actually a person. She brushes her teeth, takes out the trash, watches youtube, and has both good and bad habits. Almost all professors want to get to know their students and it only takes a couple of minutes after class to get to know them. Ask a deeper question about the material or let them know if you connected with something in the lecture. Be genuine with your questions. When it’s time for a letter of recommendation for a scholarship or job, your professor won’t be asking – who are you?

6. Take care of yourself.

If you’re the kind of person who easily fatigues, find ways to keep up your energy. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and schedule classes later in the morning if you’re a night owl. This is an accommodation the university’s disability office can provide to you through priority registration. Schedule time between classes so you can rest if needed. Use the rec center and work out – you will find that this may increase your energy level. And, remember to eat! Or, don’t eat too much junk food! You know your eating habits and what works, so we’ll stop sounding like Mom. We know she’s probably already nagging you enough. If you have epilepsy, remember to take your medicine and if it helps, set an alarm in your phone.

7. Have fun!

Once the work is done, you can then go out and have a little fun…coffee, a movie, bowling, or another fun activity.  Enjoy your weekends, take a break and “party” a little with friends,  and remember you do have to be prepared for class the next week. If having fun isn’t something that comes naturally to you, plan your fun, just like you plan your study time. Join a group that sounds like fun. Every college has a list of organizations and groups and there’s usually something for everyone. Religious organizations often have activities and small groups. All of these are a great way to meet people. Once you feel comfortable around group members, put yourself out there and ask what they’re doing for the weekend. You may find yourself invited to join them. Some people assume that a person who wears a leg brace or has a speech difference “can’t” go out and do things. We know – this is really odd thinking – but, it’s out there. Let them know that you have similar interests and enjoy life just like the next person.

Meet other college students who have hemiplegia at the national CHASA Retreat.

Learn more about being successful in college.

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