Success Characteristic #6

“We all aspire to do the best we can with what we’re dealt. Focus on your strengths. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and admit you need it.” Charles Schwab

            Some of us find asking for help very difficult as we think we SHOULD be able to do things “on our own”. However, as Charles Schwab, a leader in the discount brokerage industry, and also a person with a learning disability states, we should not “be afraid to ask for help and admit you (we) need it.” Many people who we would consider to be “successful” in their lives have sought assistance from others in order to achieve their success. In order to develop a support system to help you be a successful student, you must be willing to reach out to others for the help, support and/or guidance you need.

            Over the past academic year in this newsletter, I have shared with you how to develop five characteristics of success for college students with learning disabilities, which can be applied to any college student with disabilities. This article introduces the sixth, how to develop a support system. In order to fully develop the other five characteristics: understanding and accepting your disability, learning to compensate, self-advocacy, goal setting and attainment, and perseverance, having and knowing how to use a support system is crucial.

            So, how can we develop a support system? First, consider whose support you may already have. This could include parents, siblings and friends, people who support your efforts and encourage you when times get tough. Be sure to include them as a part of your support system. Next, consider the type of help you think you need. If it is with an academic question, your professor, TA and/or tutor may be your best sources of information. Consider doing one or more of the following before meeting with any of these individuals: 

  • Marking/noting questions when you have them in readings or lecture notes
  • Noting where your understanding breaks down
    • Am I not understanding the content?
    • Am I not understanding the way the content is being presented?
  • Be as specific as possible when you ask questions, esp. of faculty.
  • Instead of asking, “what do I have to know or do to prepare for this exam?” or “How do I get an A on this paper?”, consider telling your professor how you are studying, or planning to study, and ask if you are “on the right track” with your study plan or the outline of your paper.

If you have concerns about your motivation or ability organize yourself/time management, your peers and DRES staff may be good sources of help:

  • Studying with others can be a good choice for students who have a difficult time getting motivated to study on their own.
  • If you prefer to study alone, you can plan your studying so that you are finished with a certain section (chapter, etc.) by the time you meet with a friend for lunch or to work out, etc.
  • The DRES Academic Coaching Program is designed for students who have a difficult time keeping on track with studying and other tasks. Meeting with a “coach” (Typically, students doing an internship at DRES) on a weekly basis helps students to “check in” about their progress and any stumbling blocks to that progress that happened over the week as well as to discuss goals for the following week. The “check in” weekly meeting helps students to be accountable in accomplishing their goals, such as completing work. It has assisted many students in DRES to be successful academically at the University.
  • If you have concerns regarding your study skills (e.g., reading comprehension, test preparation and/or test taking), there are several powerpoint presentations as well as written information on the DRES website under the Knowledge tab, click on “Strategies”. You can also consult with Karen Wold, Learning Disabilities Specialist, kwold2@illinois.edu or 333-8705 for strategies in these areas.
  • Your DRES case manager is also a good source of support. Case managers can assist you in problem solving in academic and non-academic matters and can refer you to DRES or University resources for help.
  • Also, many students have found it helpful to put professors and/or TAs office hours on a weekly schedule and try to study material in their classes BEFORE their office hours so they can attend and ask questions about what they are not understanding when they study.

It is my hope that this article has given you some ideas about how you can develop your own support system while you are a student at U of I to assist you in reaching your academic goals.