Handbook, Sec. IV: Know How to Get What You Need and Want (Page 18 of 50)

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Seek Accommodations
    1. What is “reasonable accommodation”?
    2. Why may accommodations be needed?
    3. How do I qualify for an accommodation?
    4. How do I request an accommodation?
    5. What can I do if a reasonable accommodation is not made?
    6. Types of Accommodation
  3. Communicate
    1. Cultural Considerations
    2. Choose the Type of Communication
    3. Listening
    4. “I Statements”
    5. Seek First to Understand
    6. Request an Accommodation
    7. First Impressions
    8. Networking
  4. Get Organized
    1. Organize Class Assignments and Tests
    2. Organize According to Your Learning Style
    3. Organize Your Study Environment
    4. Schedule Carefully
    5. Study Tips
    6. Find Balance
    7. Four Simple Ways to Reduce Stress
  5. Make Decisions
    1. Decision Making Steps
    2. Real Life Example
    3. Now It’s Your Turn
  6. Solve Problems
    1. Problem Solving Steps
    2. Now It's Your Turn
    3. It’s OK to Ask for Help
  7. Develop a Support Network
    1. Activity: Building a Support Network
  8. Set Goals
    1. Goal Setting Example
    2. Now It’s Your Turn!
  9. Plan for the Future—Career Development
    1. Choose a Major
    2. Career Preparation
    3. Networking
    4. Experience
    5. Resume
    6. Cover Letter
    7. Interview
    8. Choose the Right Workplace
    9. Accommodations in the Workplace
  10. Resources
  11. Feedback

Introduction

After you have a sense of what you need and want, the next step is to take action. A number of skills will help you address your needs and move toward making your hopes and dreams a reality. This chapter will highlight the skills most often associated with college success and self-advocacy. It is up to you to develop and use your skills. Strengthening your self-advocacy skills will help you take charge of your life.

Seek Accommodations

If you have a disability, it is up to you to decide if an accommodation might be helpful to you while you pursue your college studies. If you think you may need to request an academic-related accommodation (or adjustment) from your college or university, it is helpful to understand the purpose of a “reasonable accommodation,” how you go about requesting an accommodation, the laws that protect your right to an accommodation, and the types of accommodations that may be possible in the college environment.

What is “reasonable accommodation”?

To understand the purpose of accommodation as it applies to students with disabilities in higher education, it is important to understand the meaning of reasonable accommodation.

The word, “reasonable” is part of the legal definition that requires accommodations to be effective but not excessive. Reasonable accommodation refers to adaptations or modifications made to the environment or policies and procedures aimed at reasonably lessening the impact of a disability-related limitation. For example, a student with a visual impairment may need to have his or her textbooks made available on audiotape.

Remember, the focus of all accommodations is to mitigate the effects of the disability, not to make sure that all students with disabilities are successful in college. The goal is to give students with a disabilities the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and provide equal access to the learning environment, programs and activities. Individualized accommodations are not designed to give the student an advantage over other students, to alter a fundamental aspect of the course, or to weaken academic rigor.

Why may accommodations be needed?

  • Accommodations in the classroom allow students with visible or invisible disabilities the same learning opportunities as their classmates.
  • Students with disabilities often need support services and adjustments to enable them to learn at the same level as other students.
  • Anti-discrimination law protects students with disabilities from being denied equal access to academic material in the classroom.
  • Accommodations promote full inclusion of the rising number of students with disabilities entering postsecondary academic institutions.

How do I qualify for an accommodation?

To qualify for an accommodation, you must have a disability. According to the U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commision (1992), a person with a disability:

  • has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities*
  • has a record of such impairment
  • is regarded as having such an impairment

*Major life activities include walking, seeing, speaking, hearing, breathing, learning, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, and working. Other activities such as sitting, standing, lifting, or reading are also major life activities.

How do I request an accommodation?

The steps to making a request:

  1. The first step to requesting an accommodation is to make sure you have official documentation of your disability that establishes a substantial limitation in a major life activity. (See definition of disability above.)
  2. The next step is to go to the Disability Service Office (DSO) on your campus. If possible, try to do this before classes start or at the beginning of the semester to ensure a timely implementation. The DSO will need to see your official disability documentation. If your documentation is incomplete the DSO can help guide you on how to get the needed information. The DSO works with individual students to determine what reasonable accommodation(s) may be needed. Remember to share what works best for you because you are the expert on your disability. The DSO will determine if an accommodation is reasonable or not. After documentation is provided, the DSO will give you a letter of verification of accommodation for each class.
  3. The final step is to make appointments with your professors to explain your disability and provide the letter of verification of accommodation. Again, if possible, try to communicate with professors before classes start to give all parties involved in making the accommodation plenty of lead time. If you are uncomfortable talking to your professors, the DSO can communicate with your professors for you about your need for accommodation. However, it will benefit you greatly to actually talk to your professors, develop rapport and open the lines of communication. Remember to periodically check back with your professors to let them know how effective the accommodation has been.

What do I say?

After setting up an appointment with your professor or stopping by during office hours, follow these steps to request an accommodation:

  1. Introduce yourself: Shake hands and identify who you are, and which class you are from.
  2. Explain the purpose for meeting: Tell your professor that you have a disability and are seeking an academic accommodation or academic adjustment (Choose the wording you like best.) that you would like to review with him/her.
  3. If you feel comfortable, talk to the professor about your disability. Explain in what ways your disability creates academic challenges. Discuss your learning style and the types of strategies that work for you.
  4. Tell the professor that you have met with the DSO to figure out an effective accommodation and want to make sure the recommendations will work. Show the professor your letter of verification for accommodation. Ask the professor if the accommodation sounds reasonable.
  5. If the professor is not comfortable with the accommodation have them call the DSO.
  6. Ask if it will be ok to check back couple of times to discuss how the accommodation is working out.
  7. Thank the professor for his/her time and support.

Accommodation Script

“Hi! My name is ______________________ I am in your ________________________ class. I have a disability. (If you feel comfortable describe how your disability affects you academically and explain strategies that work for you.) I have met with the Disability Service Office and would like to go over the recommended academic accommodation to make sure this will work for you too. (Go over the accommodation letter.) Does this sound reasonable? Thank you for your time and support!”

What can I do if a reasonable accommodation is not made?

If you have worked with the disability services office (DSO) to request a reasonable accommodation and the request is turned down, find out why and continue to consult with the DSO for effective problem solving. It may be that your request was viewed as unreasonable, or in legal terms, it may cause an “undue hardship.” Be creative and persistent. With a little modification you may be able to come up with an acceptable alternative that is agreeable to all parties.

However, if a solution cannot be found and you feel you have been discriminated against, you can approach the campus ADA compliance officer (often located in the Office of Equal Opportunity) and file a complaint. If you feel dissatisfied with the outcome, a complaint and/or lawsuit can be filed with the relevant federal agency. For instance, students with disabilities have filed complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and/or sued postsecondary programs because they were denied the opportunity to take a course, to participate in an activity, or to submit an assignment in an alternative format. If you decide to file some type of complaint, make sure to check on the timeframe available in which to file the complaint. For example, the Office of Civil Rights requires complaints be filed within 180 days.

Types of Accommodation

First, always remember you are an expert on your disability. You know what works or doesn’t work for you. You must advocate for yourself. Therefore, as you work with your DSO make sure you share your insights so that the most effective accommodations can be made.

While there are accommodations that are commonly helpful to people with certain disabilities, it is important to understand that accommodations are determined on an individual basis. For example, you may benefit by using a note taker while someone else may not. There may even be variations in the accommodations you use from one class to another.

Accommodations Frequently Used by Disability Service Offices:

  1. Priority Registration: Students registered with their DSO are allowed priority registration (usually during the pre-registration period). This allows the student access to the registration system early to schedule classes according to their needs and desired work load. Early registration also helps the DSO and faculty to make necessary accommodations as well as locate alternative text if needed.
  2. Alternative Testing: Accommodations may include extra time on a test, providing a less distracting environment (outside of class), allowing a student use of a reader/scribe, use of a computer or adaptive equipment.
  3. Note taking: A fellow student volunteer may be recruited as a note taker or, if needed, a paid student or non-student. Students may also request copies of your lecture notes
  4. Digital formats of texts: Printed text is scanned so students can use it digitally with screen readers and other assistive computer programs
  5. Assistive Technology: Computer/adaptive technology
  6. Oral processing
  7. Adjustable table height
  8. Alternative text (print conversions)
  9. Interpreting: Sign & Oral interpreting

Accommodations Frequently Provided by Faculty:

  1. Multiple methods of presentation: Presenting information and ideas in multiple ways to address different learning styles.
  2. Multiple means of expression: Allow for students to demonstrate knowledge in a variety of ways i.e., orally, written, demonstration, computer aided, etc.
  3. Substitute formats of exams (e.g., essay vs. multiple choice)
  4. Provision of a syllabus prior to the beginning of class
  5. Preferred seating in class: Sitting in the front or another designated or “reserved” area of the class
  6. Provision of less distracting environment (for in-class work)
  7. Extended time limits on assignments and tests
  8. Allow movement from sitting position as needed
  9. Alternative text: Web formats, digital formats, copies printed on colored paper
  10. Allow student to tape record lecture
  11. Change classroom location for accessibility reasons
  12. Allow assistive, adaptive devices
  13. Provide feedback and assist the student in planning the workflow of assignments
  14. Provide assistance with proofreading written work
  15. Engage a student who self advocates: Work with the student to determine a path that’s effective for all involved.
  16. Break large amounts of information or instructions into smaller segments
  17. Reinforce directions verbally
  18. Digital textbooks: Digital textbooks are available through many publishers. Before ordering texts for your class, check to see what books have digitized material Consider the fact that some students need time to get books in digital formats. Be considerate of the implications of changing textbooks at start of semester or part way into the semester

Communicate

Communication skills are essential in the process of advocating for what you need and want in college and in life. Effective communication skills will help you achieve win-win outcomes and solve problems.

Cultural Considerations

Your cultural background will influence how you communicate. It is always recommended to take into consideration cultural values when communicating with someone from a different cultural background. In the college environment, communication with a professor may be viewed differently depending upon your culture. Some cultures consider asking questions, and direct communication with a professor disrespectful. However, this is not usually the case in American universities and colleges. The following communication techniques are “typical” of higher education institutions in the U.S.

In general, higher education welcomes direct communication between students and faculty. It is not disrespectful to approach a faculty member and ask questions. If talking with the professor in person, timing should be considered. Professors have busy schedules and are often appreciative if you ask for an appointment to discuss questions. If you make an appointment make sure you are on time for the appointment and keep the meeting brief. Feel free to look the professor in the eye, introduce yourself and shake his/her hand. Building a strong working relationship with your professor will help you succeed.

Choose the Type of Communication

It is important to choose the right form of communication. In the college setting, texting and emailing are the most frequently used forms of communication. When communicating with a professor it is often easily done through email. It is a good idea to pay attention to grammar and spelling when emailing professors because your emails represent you as a person and a student. If you need to discuss an accommodation or a concern, it may be more effectively done in person. Most students request and set up an appointment with their professor through email. However, this can also be done after class, over the phone or through a departmental secretary. Lastly, keep in mind that while you're in class it's important to limit the use of cell phones. Texting or talking on a cell phone during a lecture is disrespectful and will only serve to distract you from obtaining a quality education.

Listening

Communication is not just about getting your point across to someone else, it is also about truly trying to understand where the other person in coming from. Listening is a key element of effective communication. Make sure to listen as much as you are talking. Ask questions and listen carefully to the responses.

Use “I Statements”

In difficult situations remember to avoid pointing your finger at someone and blaming them or calling them a name. Instead, describe the behavior of the person and use I statements that express what you are feeling and/or, what you need.

For example, here is an effective approach:

When you slammed the door on me, I felt frustrated because we couldn’t work through our problems.

Here is an ineffective approach:

You are such a jerk! What is your problem?

Seek First to Understand

Communication is a two way street especially when discussing a problem or concern. Talking and listening are equally important aspects of effective communication. Stephen Covey notes that to promote effective communication it is important to “seek first to understand.” To achieve this end, you must make an effort to understand the person with whom you are communicating with and his/her concerns, issues, and circumstances. Ask questions and listen in an effort to understand where the other person is coming from. Repeat back the key points to make sure you have a clear understanding. As the other person feels understood, s/he will be more open and receptive to your communication. The outcome of your communication is more likely to be favorable when using this approach. Try the following exercise to practice seeking first to understand (Seek First to Understand Exercise also available in a printable PDF format).

Exercise

Person A Scenario:
You are frustrated that a classmate (Person B) has frequently asked to copy your statistics homework. You decide you need to talk to him about the issue. You have noticed that he seems more withdrawn lately and has missed a number of classes. The next time you see him, practice “seeking first to understand” before expressing your frustration.

Ask questions/gather information:
You might begin by saying, “How are you? I noticed you’ve missed some classes, is there something going on?...”

Show empathy/seek to understand:
You might say, “It must be difficult for you right now. I had a similar situation once...”

Reflect what you have heard: It sounds like you are pretty stressed right now, and you are worried about getting behind and worried about keeping up with the homework.

Express your need: “I want to help you, but I don’t know if copying my homework will help you in the long run.”

Seek a win/win outcome: “Would you like me to help you get a tutor?”

Person B Scenario:
You have had a death in the family and have had to miss some school. You are really struggling in your statistics class and have been copying a classmate’s homework to try and get back on track. You know that this is just a short-term resolution and need to figure out how to get more support in statistics so that you can truly learn and understand the assignments.

Request an Accommodation

If you need to seek an accommodation the best way to make it happen is through direct communication. After meeting with the Disability Service Office, you will receive a letter stating your requested accommodation. Take this letter to your professor and discuss your learning needs, learning style and learning strengths. This is a very important self-advocacy skill to learn. Through communication you can set up accommodations that help you succeed in college.

Remember, professors have had many students approach them for accommodations. While it may be uncomfortable for you to approach your professor about your disability, most professors are impressed when a student demonstrates an understanding of his/her learning needs. It is also your legal right to request a reasonable accommodation. Here is a script to use when requesting an accommodation (Accommodation Request Script also available in a printable PDF format).

Accommodation Request Script

“Hi! I am ______ (your name). I am in your ______ (name of class).”

“I am here to discuss my learning needs.”

I have ____________________ (disability or general description).”

“Typically, my disability affects me in the following ways... (Describe how your disability affects your academic functioning).”

“Strategies that really work for me include...”

“I have met with the Disability Service Office and would like to go over the recommended academic accommodation to make sure this will work for you too.” (Go over the accommodation letter.)

“Does this sound reasonable?

Thank you for your time and support!”

First Impressions

Communication also occurs nonverbally. Never underestimate the power of first impressions. If you want to make a favorable impression, pay attention to how you dress and your overall appearance. You may be perceived as lazy, sloppy, or as having an attitude problem if you are careless about your clothing and your personal hygiene. If you appear neat and clean and dressed appropriately for the situation you will make a more favorable impression.

Body language is another form of nonverbal communication. Pay attention to how your posture, eye contact, body movement and proximity affect others. For example, if you are fidgeting and cannot maintain eye contact, you may be perceived as lacking confidence or having anxiety. If you look pleasant, maintain eye contact and have an open stance, you may be perceived as confident and approachable.

Networking

Don’t forget to network. Use your communication skills to connect with others. Talk to professors to find out about summer jobs and intern opportunities. Join clubs to meet other people who have similar interests. Connect with students to form study groups or to get help with homework. Access student services on campus to connect with tutoring, mentoring, counseling, career exploration and other types of support. Networking is a lifelong skill that will help you develop support and discover new opportunities.

Get Organized

Managing schedules and organizing time is often the most challenging part of being a new college student. It is easy to find yourself overwhelmed with all the class work, outside projects, extracurricular activities and social obligations. Organizing your time, classes, social engagements and environment in a logical and responsible manner will support your success in college. The key to developing good organizational skills is finding strategies and natural supports that work for you and your unique learning style.

Advantages to developing good organizational and time management skills:

  • The better you are at effectively managing your time the more freedom you will have to participate in extracurricular activities and still attain your academic goals successfully!
  • Studying in little increments everyday will better prepare you for exams.
  • Good time management skills = less procrastination = less stress.

Organize Class Assignments and Tests

Many students find calendars, weekly/monthly schedulers, computer calendars and “to do lists” to be helpful for managing class assignments and due dates. Color- coding subjects and assignments/tests can also prove to be helpful.

  • Make a weekly and monthly schedule.
  • Include study time in your weekly schedule.
  • Allow for flexibility and unexpected circumstances.
  • Make “To-Do Lists” as little reminders.

For Example:

Monday, Apr. 30

11-2pm Biology Class

2-4pm Biology Study Group

Tuesday, May 1

10-12pm History Class

1-2pm Bio Lab

2-4pm English Class

7:00pm Write Paper

Wednesday, May 2

9-12pm Math

2-3pm Math Tutor

4-5pm Guitar

7:00pm Write Paper

Quick Notes
To Do List:
-Pay bills
-Apply for FAFSA
-Phone home
-Practice Guitar
-Bike Ride
-Wash car

Thursday, May 3

Hamlet Paper Due

2-4pm Bio Study Group

7:00pm T.V. Night @ Julia’s House

Friday, May 4

11-1 Bio Test

2-3pm Math Tutor

Saturday, May 5

12-2pm Library Study

8:00pm Movie @ LSC

Sunday, May 6

12-2pm Library Study

7-9pm Book Club @ Cathy’s

Organize According to Your Learning Style

Organization strategies vary from person to person; therefore, try to identify systems that work best for you. Develop organizational strategies that incorporate your learning style.

For Example:

Visual Learner

Auditory Learner

Kinesthetic Learner

Use flow charts, spider maps, charts , web maps, etc. to organize information

Tape record lectures

Study while being active (pacing, riding a stationary bike, etc.)

Color code key points in texts, notes and handouts.

Participate in study groups to discuss information out-load.

Take frequent study breaks

Visualize information

Self-talk or read out-loud

Work while standing

Use multi-media

Use jingles, mnemonics, analogies to aid with memorization

Chew gum, tart/sour candies, use a fidget object (i.e., ball, rubber band, etc.)

Eliminating distractions and clutter in your study environment will contribute significantly to your ability to concentrate and retain information over time. Create a space that is constant and supportive of your academic needs. If your mind tends to wander think about the factors that may contribute to your distractibility and try removing them and/or yourself from this environment.

Easy strategies to organize your study space:

  • Proper lighting
  • Eliminate clutter and distractions (i.e. t.v., radio, number of people present)
  • Have separate binders for each subject
  • Quiet and comfortable
  • Plan for breaks and leisurely activities
  • Organize your schedule so that you are studying during times that accommodate your ability to stay focused.
  • Avoid studying multiple subjects simultaneously
  • Be consistent with where, when and how you study!

***You may want to consider locating a “back-up” study environment for times when you need fewer distractions. Everyone is unique in how they best learn so identifying, early on, what type of environment works best for you will prove to be a great advantage.

Schedule Carefully

The way you set up your schedule each semester will impact your success semester to semester.

Recommendations:

  • Distribute courses evenly throughout the day and week
  • Organize your schedule so you are taking classes when you’re most alert
  • Avoid scheduling two really hard subjects back to back during the semester
  • If you know your major, plan ahead by looking at class requirements for the entire program and organize accordingly
  • Know college drop/withdrawal deadlines and drop a class if you need to, before it too late!
  • Be careful not to over schedule yourself. If your schedule is too busy and too hectic it will be much more likely that you become disorganized and get stressed.
  • Allow enough time for each activity in your day. If you are constantly running late, try to build in a little slush time between activities and make yourself leave earlier than you are accustomed to leaving. Over time you will develop a new habit that decreases stress.

Study Tips

Good study habits will contribute greatly to your success in college. Developing a consistent studying routine will help you stay organized, focused, and on target for reaching your goals. LD Online provides an outline of strategies for “Ways that Students Can Help Themselves” (Vogel, 1997); tips include:

  • Make study time part of your weekly schedule.
  • Find ways to build in accountability. Schedule study time with a study buddy. Study materials together, or study independently at the same location.
  • Attend all classes.
  • Preview material beforehand.
  • Review material already covered.
  • Read and prepare before class.
  • Don’t get behind.
  • Clarify questions – Ask instructor, classmate or tutor for clarification.
  • Develop memory strategies that work for you – Make up a story you can remember that includes pertinent facts, memorize a list by creating a word from the first letters of each word on the list, etc.
  • Use study strategies that fit your learning style – Form a study group to discuss material. Read your notes out loud. Record lectures and listen to them again after class.Use movement while studying - walk around, squeeze a ball, kick a ball, etc. Draw a picture, use visual aids, write a summary outline or, highlight main points.
  • Improve your test-taking skills. If because of your disability, you need more time than what is offered for a test, contact you Disability Service Office on how to request a testing accommodation. Also inquire
  • Build your self-confidence by starting with small, consistent organization steps. Remember that it takes at least three weeks to develop a new habit. With patience and persistence you can experience greater success by improving your organizational skills.

Find Balance

Staying organized and applying some of the suggested strategies will greatly reduce stress and anxiety while in school. The more organized you are, the less likely you will fall behind.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Establish a day-to-day routine that is relatively consistent.
  • Balance your academic studies and requirements with fun leisure activities that you enjoy.
  • Remember to be aware of your needs in all areas of your life. If you are only focused on one life area the other dimensions of your life may become problematic and cause stress.

Four Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

  1. Food – Eat a well balanced and nutritional diet.
  2. Sleep – Develop a consistent schedule for sleep.
  3. Exercise – Engage in fun and active leisure activities.
  4. Listen to Yourself; knowing what you need and when you need it!
    • Seek support from friends, family or, on-campus resources (counseling center, disability service office, health center, wellness programs, etc.).
    • Learn to say NO to social opportunities! Missing a social event from time to time to rest, re-energize and organize is OK! There will always be more.

Make Decisions

Decision making skills will help you make good choices.  The choices you make will help you get where you want to go.  Your decisions will allow you to shape your life. Making decisions in college can be overwhelming due to the quantity of choices and opportunities available to you. Developing effective decision making skills will help you get what you need and want.

Decision Solving Steps:

Decision making can be easy, just follow these steps:

  1. Ask yourself, what is the real issue?
    • What are you trying to decide?
    • Research the facts.
  2. Compare the pros and cons
    • List the positives and negatives for each option
  3. Decide
    • Choose the option with the greatest number of pros.
  4. Take action
    • Put your decision into action!
  5. Check back
    • Are you satisfied with the outcome?
    • Do any adjustments or changes need to be made?

Real Life Example:

If you can’t decide between two classes, here is an example of how the decision making steps may be helpful to you.

1. Define the issue

  • What are you trying to decide?
    • Which class should I take: SOC 100 or HIST 101?
  • Research the facts
    • The first step in the decision making process is to research the facts. Here are some questions to help you research the facts and gather decision making information:
      • Are either of the classes required?
      • In which class are you most interested?
      • What class is offered at the best time of day?
      • What is your preferred number of hours per semester?
      • Are either of the classes offered on a limited basis (i.e., on particular semesters)?
      • Are either of the classes prerequisites for other classes down the road?
      • When do you hope to graduate?

2. Compare the pros and cons

List the positives and negatives for each option

Decision making chart

Define Question: Should I take SOC 100 instead of HIST 101?

Pros: (+) Cons: (-)
SOC 100 is part of the Core Curriculum.  
  This semester SOC 100 is only offered at 7:30 AM which may be difficult for me because I work in the evenings.
  I am not really interested in sociology.
I will earn 3 credits for this class.  

Decision making chart

Define Question: Should I take HIST 101 instead of SOC 101?

Pros: (+) Cons: (-)
HIST 101 is part of the Core Curriculum.  
I can take HIST 101 at 1:00. This time of day will be easier for me since I work in the evenings.  
I really enjoy this subject.  
I will earn 3 credits for this class.  
  • Compare the pros and cons for each scenario.
  • Which scenario has the greatest number of pros?
  • Do you have enough information to make a decision, or do you need to research more facts?

3. Decide

  • Choose the option with the greatest number of pros.

    HIST 101 has the greatest number of pros.

4. Take Action

  • Put your decision into action!

    Register for HIST 101.

5. Check back

  • Are you satisfied with the outcome?
  • Do any adjustments or changes need to be made?

    Are you happy with the HIST 101 class?

Now it’s your turn

Click on the link below to complete your own decision making worksheet.

Printable Decision Making Worksheet (PDF)

Desicion Making Worksheet - thumbnail image

Solve Problems

Now that you understand the importance of communication skills, these skills can be applied toward problem solving. Communication and problem solving go together. Learning how to work through problems will help you move your life in a positive direction and help you get what you want and need. The key to becoming a good problem-solver is developing an easy strategy for working through the problem.

Problem Solving Steps:

  1. What is the real problem?
  2. What can I do about my problem? What is my plan?
  3. Am I using my plan?
  4. How did I do?

For Example:

Let’s apply these steps to a common registration problem that college students often encounter...

Situation: You find out the class you want to register for is full.

  1. What is the real problem?
    • The class is full
  2. What can I do about my problem? What is my plan?
    1. Speak with the professor with the class that is full
      Questions to ask:
      • “Even though the class is full, could you add one more student?”
      • “Is there a waiting list?”
      • “Can I register if someone drops out?”
    2. Speak with an advisor about class alternatives
      Question to ask:
      • Are there other classes that meet the same requirements?
  3. Am I using my plan?
    • Check back and make adjustments
  4. How did I do? Learn from your mistakes!
    • I found a different class to take. Next time I will register earlier and plan ahead.

Now it’s your turn

Exercise

Think of a problem you have had recently. Use the problem solving steps. If one plan doesn’t work try a new plan until you feel that you have solved your problem.

Problem solving steps

  1. What is the real problem?
  2. What can I do about my problem? (What is my plan?)
  3. Am I using my plan?
  4. How did I do?

Here are some ideas:

  1. The first step to requesting an accommodation is to make sure you have official documentation of your disability that establishes a substantial limitation in a major life activity. (See definition of disability above.)
  2. The next step is to go to the Disability Service Office (DSO) on your campus. If possible, try to do this before classes start or at the beginning of the semester to ensure a timely implementation. The DSO will need to see your official disability documentation. If your documentation is incomplete the DSO can help guide you on how to get the needed information. The DSO works with individual students to determine what reasonable accommodation(s) may be needed. Remember to share what works best for you because you are the expert on your disability. The DSO will determine if an accommodation is reasonable or not. After documentation is provided, the DSO will give you a letter of verification of accommodation for each class.
  3. The final step is to make appointments with your professors to explain your disability and provide the letter of verification of accommodation. Again, if possible, try to communicate with professors before classes start to give all parties involved in making the accommodation plenty of lead time. If you are uncomfortable talking to your professors, the DSO can communicate with your professors for you about your need for accommodation. However, it will benefit you greatly to actually talk to your professors, develop rapport and open the lines of communication. Remember to periodically check back with your professors to let them know how effective the accommodation has been.

What do I say?

After setting up an appointment with your professor or stopping by during office hours follow these steps to request an accommodation:

  1. Introduce yourself: Shake hands and identify who you are, and which class you are from.
  2. Explain the purpose for meeting: Tell your professor that you have a disability and are seeking an academic accommodation or academic adjustment (Choose the wording you like best.) that you would like to review with him/her.
  3. If you feel comfortable, talk to the professor about your disability. Explain in what ways your disability creates academic challenges. Discuss your learning style and the types of strategies that work for you.
  4. Tell the professor that you have met with the DSO to figure out an effective accommodation and want to make sure the recommendations will work. Show the professor your letter of verification for accommodation. Ask the professor if the accommodation sounds reasonable.
  5. If the professor is not comfortable with the accommodation have them call the DSO.
  6. Ask if it will be ok to check back couple of times to discuss how the accommodation is working out.
  7. Thank the professor for his/her time and support.

Accommodation Script

“Hi! My name is ______________________ I am in your ________________________ class. I have a disability. (If you feel comfortable describe how your disability affects you academically and explain strategies that work for you.) I have met with the Disability Service Office and would like to go over the recommended academic accommodation to make sure this will work for you too. (Go over the accommodation letter.) Does this sound reasonable? Thank you for your time and support!”

It's OK to Ask for Help

Just a reminder… When you feel frustrated by a problem, it is often helpful to ask a support person for help. Remember that it is OK to ask for help. Ask a friend, a family member, a mentor, or, go to one of the many student service offices on campus ( i.e., counseling center, academic advising, disability services office, etc.) for helpful advice.

Develop a Support Network

To be effective and successful in life, it is important to realize that we are all connected to other people. While being independent and self-reliant is important, a higher level of effectiveness and success is possible through interdependence. Interdependence acknowledges that independence along with support and relationships with other people, will ultimately lead to greater success. Having a positive support system in place is a key element of interdependence and of self-advocacy.

As you grew up you probably had a support system in place that you may or may not have been aware in your daily life. Supports might have included family, friends, neighbors, school, church, etc. In college and throughout the rest of your life it will be helpful to have a support system in place. As a college student some of your original supports will probably remain, but also consider adding some college-related supports. If you do not have supportive people in your life, you will have to develop your own support system. A good place to start is with the student service offices on campus. Explore which services may be helpful to you. Go into the office meet the staff. Get connected with advisors and counselors that can help with anything from exploring majors and careers to how to study for a test. For stress management and mental health support, visit the campus counseling center. There are also many student activities, clubs and organizations that can provide support and a sense of connection. Check out the campus ministry or local churches and participate in service learning. As you take classes, make a point to get to know your professors. Many professors are happy to provide mentorship related to their field of study. All you need to do is ask. Departments can also connect you with tutors if needed. If you are not attending college in your home community, find a nearby relative or friend of the family who you can call or visit when needed.

Remember that it is OK to ask for help. Support people can be very helpful in problem solving. Likewise, take time to support and help others. This is one more way to stay connected.

Activity: Building a Support Network

Click on the link below to complete your Support Network worksheet.

Building a Support Network Worksheet (PDF)

Building a Support Network - thumbnail image

Set Goals

Goal setting is one of the most powerful things you can do to impact the direction of your life. Now that you have thought about where you are at this point in your life and where you want to be in the future, it is time to start making those dreams come true. You can make your life what you want it to be by setting goals. Change may not happen in one day, it may even take years, but if you take the right steps you will make positive changes in your life.

Goal Setting Steps

I. SET YOUR GOAL

Consider what you need and want in your future. For example, if you currently have an undeclared major, but know you might like to work in the outdoors, in conservation or, for wildlife preservation. What is one small goal you could work on to start figuring out what you want to major in?

Your goal ideas might include:

  • Go to the career center on campus.
  • Talk to a professor or advisor who teaches in an area of interest.
  • Volunteer or get a summer job in an area of interest.
  • Do an information interview with a professional working in your area of interest.

The first step is to “set your goal.” Remember, this needs to be a small, simple goal to get you started. Therefore pick one of the goals listed above.

For example, if you chose “Go to the career center on campus,” here is how you might use the goal setting steps.

Goal:

  • Go to the career center on campus.

II. TAKE ACTION

What do you need to do to make this goal happen?

List the steps:

  1. Find out where the career center is located on campus.
  2. Call and see if I need to make an appointment.
  3. Go to the career center.

III. SEEK SUPPORT

Who can help me achieve this goal?

  • I will find a friend to go with me who is also interested in going to the career center.

How can they help me?

  • My friend will help me follow-through.

IV. SET A TIMEFRAME

  • I will find a time in the next week that works for my friend and me.

V. HOW ARE THINGS GOING?

  • Check back to see what kind of progress you are making on your goal. Make adjustments as needed.

VI. FINISH GOAL – CELEBRATE!

Now it’s your turn!

Click on the link below to complete your own goal setting worksheet.

Goal Setting Worksheet (PDF)

Desicion Making Worksheet - thumbnail image

Plan for the Future—Career Development

It is never too soon to start planning for your career. College is an opportunity to get the education and training you need to make your career dreams come true. Before you can pursue a career you must “know yourself.” Developing an awareness of your skills and interests will help you choose a major and start the process of identifying a career. Once you have a career direction, it is time to begin career preparation so that upon graduation, you can market yourself to potential employers.

Choose a Major

If you have not chosen a major, there are several factors to take into consideration.

An ideal major lies at the intersection of interests, skills and job opportunity.

You will have a greater likelihood of success if you consider your interests, skills and the job opportunity in the job market now and in the future, because an ideal major lies at the intersection of interests, skills and job opportunity. Use your knowledge of your strengths and challenges to choose a major that is a good match for you. If you have questions or need more information about majors, talk to your advisor, talk to other students about their majors, and visit the career services office on campus. This office can provide information on how to match a major to a career, career interest inventories, career preparation support, career trends and information, and opportunities for summer jobs and internships. Before you graduate, the career office can also connect you with potential employers. Make sure you explore this valuable resource on campus.

Career Preparation

During your college experience make sure you take time to network, gain relevant experience, update your resume and practice interviewing. The career services office on campus can offer you extensive career preparation support. At a minimum, make sure you target the following career-related areas.

Networking

Networking is the process of connecting with other people to share and gain information. Networking is an invaluable skill that will help you plan for your future and strengthen your ability to advocate for yourself. During your time in college, you have the unique opportunity to meet professors, administrators and employers who are leaders in their chosen fields. Make the most of these opportunities by connecting with these individuals.

One way to connect is through an informational interview. Here are some sample questions:

  • How would you describe a typical day/week/month/cycle?
  • How would you describe your work environment?
  • What portion of your job involves interacting with others?
  • How is your work evaluated?
  • What do you like most? What would you change?
  • What college courses and experiences have been most helpful to you in your position?
  • Is there a special certification, licensing, or advanced degree requirement for your job?
  • What personal qualities are important for success at this job?
  • How much travel and/or overtime is required and what type?
  • What are the biggest challenges you deal with?
  • What are some of the current and future trends in your field?
  • How do most people enter this field?
  • What type of position in this field might I reasonably target given my background?
  • What criteria do you use for hiring at my level?
  • Are there any opportunities for volunteer work, internships, summer employment, or maybe a career someday...?
  • Can you refer me to other people in the field who might be willing to talk to me about their experiences?

***Make sure to follow-up your informational interview with a thank you note.

Many of the best career and life opportunities are never formally posted anywhere, but are discovered through networking.

Experience

As you enter the job market, employers will be looking for more than just education. They will also be looking for related experience and leadership. During college you can gain relevant, career related experience in a number of ways such as service learning, internships, volunteering, professional organizations, leadership positions, and part time, or summer jobs. If possible, try to target experiences related to your field of study. Employers will also be interested in any leadership positions you have held.

Resume

Make sure your resume reflects your strengths, is professional looking (no misspelled words) and makes the employer want to call you back.

Resume basics include the following information:

  • Name/Contact
  • Objective (specific to the job)
  • Education
  • Experience – If your experience level is low, include a “Skills” section before you list your experience.
  • References
  • Optional - Awards, Honors, Activities, Skills

Cover Letter

Before writing a cover letter, research the organization to which you will be applying. Find out the nature of their business/services and look for a mission statement. Also make sure that you have obtained a detailed job description.

Often the job description listed with the position announcement is an abbreviated version. Make sure that you include all of the requested application information and that you meet the application deadline. Customize your cover letter to emphasize how you meet the requirements for the position. Describe why you are especially interested in their organization and what assets you can contribute to their line of work. Avoid generic cover letters because this approach will not make your application stand out or give the impression that you are truly interested in the job.

Interview

To prepare for an interview, practice ahead of time. Research common interview questions and practice in front of a video camera. The career services office may be able to help you prepare through mock interviews.

Interview Do’s

  • Turn off your cell before you get to your interview
  • Dress appropriately for type of position for which you are interviewing
  • Greet interviewer properly (handshake, use interviewer’s name)
  • Utilize appropriate non-verbal communication skills: body language, posture, eye contact
  • Show enthusiasm, confidence and sincerity
  • Speak clearly and use proper grammar
  • Listen to the interviewer
  • Do your homework: research your desired career field & position thoroughly
  • Sell yourself!
  • Know yourself: interests, skills, strengths, weaknesses and career goals
  • Know your resume (and portfolio if applicable); be prepared to discuss any contents
  • Give specific examples to support your statements
  • Ask relevant & appropriate questions
  • Summarize why you are interested in the job and why you are the person for the job
  • Seek clarification regarding follow-up procedures

Interview Don’ts

  • Be late
  • Be absent
  • Dress or groom inappropriately
  • Talk too much
  • Talk too little
  • Be vague
  • Be overconfident
  • Oversell your case
  • Try to be funny
  • Criticize yourself or undervalue your background
  • Be negative
  • Become emotional
  • Forget to write a thank you note!

 

* Interview Do’s and Don’ts used by permission, Appalachian State University Career Development Center

Choose the Right Workplace

As a self-advocate, you should have a good sense of your strengths and challenges and what you need and want. Make sure to apply your self-advocacy knowledge as you look for a job!

It is important to consider how well the job duties match your strengths and challenges. Also, carefully consider the workplace climate, the physical environment, coworkers, the supervisor’s management style, job flexibility, etc. Remember all of the strategies you have developed as a college student and carry these forward to the workplace.

Accommodations in the Workplace

If you meet the definition of someone with a disability under the Rehabilitation Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (See Seek Accommodations above), you are eligible for reasonable accommodations in the workplace. If you are receiving academic accommodations in the classroom, there is a good likelihood that you may benefit from accommodations in the workplace.

Under Title I of the ADA, employers cannot discriminate against a qualified job applicant or employee based on his or her disability. Qualified employees must be able to do the essential job functions with or without a reasonable accommodation. An accommodation is considered reasonable if it does not create an undue hardship on the employer.

If you believe you will need a workplace accommodation, it is up to you to talk to your employer. You can decide when the best time would be to make such a request. The need for an accommodation can be brought up at the interview. An employer might ask you if you can perform certain tasks. If a task requires an accommodation, you can explain how you can perform the task with the accommodation. Or, you may want to assess the job and decide if accommodations will be needed on the job. In either scenario, if you can perform the essential functions of the job with a reasonable accommodation, your job should be protected by the ADA. An employer cannot refuse to hire you or let you go from a job just because you have a disability.

Resources

Career Development Center, Appalachian State University
Offers online services such as Perfect Interview, a virtual interview simulation to critique your interviewing skills, as well as resume templates.
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
A source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.
The Student Lounge
These resources from the DO-IT program at University of Wasington can help students with disabilities prepare for college, succeed in college, and successfully transition from two-year to four-year postsecondary institutions.

General Disability Resources

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
ADA Home Page (U.S. Department of Justice)
ERIC Digest
Overview of ADA, IDEA, and Section 504
Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI)
Workshops, publications, and resources about computer access for people with disabilities
University of Washington - Disability-Related Resources on the Internet
A comprehensive list of Web sites and discussion lists related to disability.
Faculty Room
The Faculty Room is a site for faculty and administrators at postsecondary institutions to learn about how to create classroom environments and activities that maximize the learning of all students, including those with disabilities. This page is specific to faculty rights.
PACER Center – Champions for Children with Disabilities
ADA Q& A: Section 504 & Postsecondary Education
U.S Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Three documents by the Office of Civil Rights describing the rights of wounded warriors to a postsecondary education under the new GI Bill:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),
Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
Discrimination on the Basis of Disability
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

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Know How to Get What You Need and Want
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