Guest Column: Take control with self-advocacy

Theresa Smochko, MS Ed., Learning Specialist, CCAC North

During my time spent assisting students for over 21 years in the Office of Supportive Services for Students with Disabilities, I have learned much from our students regarding what it takes to be ‘successful’ in a college setting. One of the most surprising and eye-opening difference between high school and college, students tell me, is that once at college, there is no one to remind you of what you need to do. No one, but you!
Being a student is similar and as rigorous as having a full time job. Attending class, being on time, following the class syllabus, getting to know the professors, completing assignments, reading the chapters, turning in papers and presentations in on time, using a digital planner to create a study schedule, making time to study, using the learning support resources on campus, plus taking good care of yourself – all of these and more are things you have to do and manage if you wish to be successful.
The students who have been successful have two traits in common: they are organized and they know the steps to self-advocacy, an ability to identify and explain their needs as a student.
There are several steps involved in the process. The first step is to understand that you are the one ultimately responsible for your success or set-back. “You are the captain of your own ship,” is a phrase I like to use.
The second step is to be able to state your strengths as a learner and find out how to use those skills to lead you to success. Try to set goals to support your learning in each class.
The third step is to build your communication skills in order to be able to explain what exactly you need to complete a course successfully. Remember to speak to college personnel if you are having difficulties.
The fourth step is to practice good planning and be organized. Using a day-planner will help you to take control of your time and find a good balance among your school, study, social and work schedules.
Lastly, the fifth, and most challenging for many students, is to know when it is time to ask for help and turn to the many student services and resources available on and off campus. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, rather, it is a sign of one’s strength.
I would encourage you to take some time to think about how well you take control and advocate for yourself and to develop a simple plan for your academic and personal success. Indeed, it takes being honest and making a commitment to determine just how much effort you are willing to put forth. I wish you well as you navigate your own ship on this journey to your personal success!