A College Student’s Guide to Self-Advocacy

A College Student’s Guide to Self-Advocacy

This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom.

As I look back, asking for help from people was initially outside my comfort zone. However, every time that I have spoken up for myself, it has helped me become a better student. This skill has allowed me to learn more, develop relationships with professors, and succeed in college. Self-advocacy can present in many forms whether that be going to office hours, using supports on campus, or asking a question in class.

After talking with college students about their experiences with self-advocacy, we came up with the following tips:

1. Go to office hours

I did not perform well on a math exam, so I went to my professor’s office hours the next day and reviewed it with him. I was able to take the exam again and gained points back. For the rest of the semester, I met with my professor weekly to go over homework, study for exams, and ask follow-up questions about the lectures. I ended the class with a good grade and a great relationship with my professor.

2. Find supports on your campus

After reaching out to her school’s accessibility office, a student shared that she was paired with a counselor. In weekly meetings, they talked about her assignments and how to manage her time. Reflecting on her experience, she says, “This allowed me to advocate for myself and for my learning by having open conversations with my professors regarding the types of support I needed during their classes.”

3. Stay on top of your grades

Another student noticed her professor was grading assignments incorrectly. She knew it was going to be difficult to have a conversation with him about this, but she overcame this fear and met with him. After the meeting, the professor changed her grade, and she was very proud of herself for speaking up.

4. Reach out to others

One student shared that asking for help from professors and classmates allowed her “to succeed rather than continue to struggle in silence.” It can be scary to raise your hand during class, especially in a big lecture. If this feels too intimidating, talking with classmates can be just as effective. There are likely other people who are confused, so being the one to speak up can also help your peers.

Ultimately, self-advocacy is an incredible skill that will last you a lifetime.

– Maggie O’Neil, College Student Guest Contributor and ResearchILD Team Member

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org