You are about to start your first year of college. It is an exciting, yet nerve-wracking time and you may experience some challenges as you adjust to your new environment. One of the most important skills you should practice in order to make your transition successful is self-advocacy. In order to be an excellent student, you must be able to advocate for yourself.
Advocates are people who know what they want and stand up for their rights. The following four steps will help you become a better self-advocate and make your first year at college a success:
1. Know Yourself
- Identify your strengths and skills
- Identify areas of improvement
- Identify your interests and potential careers you’d like to explore
- Know your learning preferences: what ways do you learn best?
- If you require special accommodations, be ready to talk about them and show documentation so you can get the resources you need
2. Know Your Responsibilities
What are your new responsibilities as a student? Develop a system (i.e. a planner) for keeping track of your assignments and additional responsibilities. You will not have parents, teachers, counselors, etc. checking up on you like they did in high school.
Also, identify the requirements you need to meet in order to graduate with your major(s) in 4 years. By doing this ahead of time, you will avoid unwanted surprises in the future!
3. Know Where to Go for Help
In order to get help, you’ll need to know where to go to ask for it! Research the support your school has and write down the contact information for people you can go to when you need help. Some of the services you should identify are:
- Academic support services (For example, tutoring options for different subjects you are taking, a writing center, etc.)
- Registrar’s Office (for info about your transcript)
- Financial Aid Office (What GPA do you need to keep your scholarship, and are there additional scholarships you can apply for once there?)
- Health Center – including counseling services
- Residence life services, like your resident advisor, for dorm-related issues
- Information technology (Where do you go when you’re having an issue with your computer or need to download specific software?)
- Student work (Where can you go to find an on-campus job if you choose to have one?)
- Professors’ office hours (Use them as much as you need!)
4. Take Action
Now that you’ve identified who you are, your responsibilities, and where you can receive help, you are well on your way to being successful. The next key step is being able to communicate your needs and take action. No one else is going to do this step for you. You have to be brave and speak up for yourself and seek out resources. Colleges have plenty of resources, but you have to utilize them and do so on your own.
Here are more tips for becoming your own advocate that are applicable now as you search for internships and research experiences that will be helpful in the future: