Secret Skills for Success: Self-Advocacy

By Emily Talley, SED’17

EmilyTalleyI’ve been thinking a lot about the skills we need to succeed as college students – time management, organization, prioritization, stress management, discipline, study skills – the list goes on. We do a good job of talking about these skills, but one thing we don’t talk about is self-advocacy, and we should, so I will.

What is self-advocacy and why does it matter?
Self-advocacy takes many forms. The most important kind of self-advocacy is asking for help. If you need academic help, say so! Your professors do not have office hours so that they can memorize the wall behind their desk. They have office hours for you. “But Emily, I have another class during office hours?” Okay, I hear you. In this case, just email your professor asking to meet at another time. Statistically speaking, I have never, ever, even once, had a professor that wasn’t able and willing to find another time to meet with me. I once had a professor meet with me two hours before he flew out of Boston for a conference. I’ve had professors phone conference with me while I’m at work. When you see your professor, here’s the key, you have to ask for what you need. Do you need another explanation for a concept? Do you need clarification of an essay rubric? Do you need reassurance that your class participation is sufficient? Do you need to touch base because you’ve been out sick or distracted in class? Do you need an extension because your life is chaos? Do you need help figuring out what it is you need help with? Say so!

Perhaps, however, you need help in more than one class. Maybe you’re having academic issues across the board. If you need help, say so! Meet with your advisor, who is there to advise you with advice. Visit student services, ask for an appointment, get ready to develop an action plan. Visit disability services, ask for some support. Maybe you’re overwhelmed and you’re thinking about dropping a class but you don’t know how that will affect your graduation date. Maybe you can’t take notes and listen at the same time, but you didn’t know that disability services has scribes. Maybe you’re taking a class that’s way too hard for you but you don’t know what else could fulfill that graduation requirement. Maybe you need help and you don’t even know what kind of help you need. Say so!

Perhaps, however, you have an even bigger problem. You need cooperation across multiple departments. You need whole-sale sized solutions. Visit the University Service Center and, you guessed it, ask for help.

Perhaps, however, your life is peachy keen. You still need self-advocacy. You will at some point in your life need to ask for a letter of recommendation. You will someday need to tell your group project partners that you don’t group text. You will potentially want to negotiate some extra credit or a raise.
“But Emily,” you say, “I can’t do that! I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with my problems! What if they get annoyed? What if they say no?” I hear you. You’re polite and a little (or a lot) nervous. You don’t want to be rejected or embarrassed. (Me neither.) Here’s the thing – really the only thing – that matters: You need to invest in quality solutions for your life because you deserve it.

Be prepared for a learning experience. Don’t take roadblocks personally. Ask elsewhere. Ask differently. Ask with confidence. Ask again.

Some other helpful SED and BU resources are: the SED Student Records Office, Jo-Anne Richard in the Licensure Office, the Center for Career Development, the Educational Resource Center, and Student Health Services (including Behavioral Medicine and the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center).

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