This post was written by an external contributor. Here, Chloe Smith uses her experience as a disabled student to tell others how to have a rewarding first year at university.
As a disabled student who’s just made it through her first year of university, I wanted to try and pass on some of what I’ve learned over the past 12 months – so here are 4 tips for surviving your first year of university if you’re a disabled student.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it
I’m not going to lie – at times, your first year will be tough. There will be assignment deadlines to juggle, as well as the social side of university and everything else that comes with being a disabled student – including the possibility of accessibility issues.
If you do find the transition hard, encounter any issues or find any elements of uni difficult – don’t despair, and please speak up. Know that there’s people there who can help to put things in place so that those issues and difficulties disappear.
If you feel like you’re struggling in your first year, no matter how big or small the issue, definitely reach out to disability services or your lecturers – because they’ll want to help you do your best and reach your potential, and they can and should do all they can to make sure there aren’t any barriers in your way.
From Harry Potter to anime – there’s a large variety of societies around lots of different interests in most universities. If you’re able to, I’d recommend joining one that takes your fancy. Not only can they help you make friends that share your interests – but they can help you develop skills, get fit or learn something new.
If there isn’t a society that you’re interested in at your university, you could always start one – which would look great on your CV as well. Whether it’s a society specific to disability activism (which could lead to lots of good being done at your university) or to any of your hobbies, societies are fun breaks from studying as well – and keeping that balance between work and fun is so important to maintain from first year if you want to stress less.
Try and stay organised
There won’t just be deadlines. Alongside the admin of being disabled that some of us have to deal with (gotta love regular appointments to various medical professionals), there will be lots of other university-related dates to remember.
If you develop a system so that you stay on top of all this and get your assignments submitted on time in your first year, then the rest of your time at university should be a lot easier to manage. I’ve found the bullet journaling organisation method the handiest myself. But try it and others for yourself and see what fits.
The beauty of first year is that it can be trial and error – but the quicker you get sorted the smoother sailing it is.
Work at a pace that suits you
Being a student comes with academic pressure and lots of peers who will be doing worse, the same, or better than you. The important thing is to try not to compare yourself to others. University is your time to learn and grow academically – don’t let how everyone else is doing overshadow that.
Being disabled comes with even more pressure to excel academically because everyone assumes we can’t – but try not to let that affect you either. You’re at university, so you’re obviously capable and clever enough.
Make sure to use your first year as the year that you figure out how you work best and stick to that method and pace. Whether you go slower or faster than most, as long as you’re doing your best work, then you’re learning, growing and doing great. That’s all that matters.