A new environment can be intimidating for anyone and the first few semesters in a new college setting can present situations that may be unfamiliar to you. One essential part of the college experience is self-advocacy. Whether it’s asking questions about your course material, clarifying information for an upcoming exam or reaching out to services available on campus, it’s good practice to know when and how to self-advocate. Speaking up and communicating your needs doesn’t always come naturally, though there are a few things you can do to make this process less daunting.
Accepting that You Need Assistance
Many times, it’s easy to feel embarrassed or reluctant to talk to someone when you have a question or when an issue arises. In many cases, asking is better than not asking. Be confident in accepting that you may need help or guidance. Effectively vocalizing your concerns or thoughts with your instructors could mean the difference between a letter grade on a test, project, or overall grade for the course.
Communication is Key
Without this, nothing is accomplished. In order for someone to know that you need help or have questions, you have to communicate that need. Whether it’s via email, phone, or in person – make sure you utilize every possible way to get in touch with your instructor, advisor, or counselor. Don’t wait until it’s too late to initiate the conversation.
Balancing Persistence & Patience
Reaching out to someone only once to wait for an answer may not be the best approach. Everyone is busy and it never hurts to follow up. Be persistent and try different methods of contact. Avoid being overly persistent though, as this can come across as rude or disrespectful of others time. Depending on the urgency of the situation, a friendly follow up is acceptable if it’s been a couple of days and you haven’t received a reply. Being courteous, respectful, and professional may also help in getting a quicker response.
Planning & Rehearsing
Prepare what you are going to say ahead of your meeting. Print out all relevant documents pertaining to your future conversation and write down notes about what you would like to accomplish during that interaction. Stay on task and be ready to discuss talking points. More often than not, people will respect that you are prepared and it can further your chances of having a positive interaction.