Here’s one simple yet essential fact about college: Many professors do not remind the class when assignments are due. This isn’t because they’re entertained by students who are shocked when they don’t have completed assignments on the due date. It’s because as a college student, you’re being prepared for the real world and now your assignments are your own responsibility, not your professor’s. I personally struggle with organization because of my ADHD. In high school, my teachers would always remind me when assignments were due and this was helpful. When I reached college, it was a hard adjustment to start reminding myself when I needed to get assignments done.
But there’s an easy way to avoid last-minute panic. On the first day of every college class, you’ll receive a syllabus, a document that spells out all assignments (including readings, written work and exams) for the class and when you need to have them done. Read your syllabus carefully and never throw it out. Follow it throughout the semester and check off when you have completed an assignment or reading for a class. This will help you stay on track with due dates. One strategy that helped me is to go through the syllabus and write due dates in my planner. Keeping close track of what’s due helps you handle the stress of college and do your best work.
Buy (and use) a planner.
I just mentioned planners, but I’m bringing them up again because besides your textbooks, a planner is one of the best investments you can make in college. You can purchase a paper planner or use built-in calendar capabilities or a special app on your smartphone or tablet. A planner can help you get around one of the biggest struggles many people with LD have: organization. One thing that helped me immensely was coming up with a color coded system. For example, History assignments were written in pink, Biology assignments were written in blue, and meetings with Disability Services were written in green. This helped me visualize my schedule and make sure never to miss an important deadline. Whatever system you come up with, make sure you use it daily—even the best approach won’t work if you don’t use it.
Create your own study guides.
When midterms and finals come around, I suggest creating your own study guides. Most likely your professors will review the material with you but will not give you an in-depth outline for exams. This is a good time to review the notes that you took all semester and start forming a way to turn the semester information into a step-by-step guide. Since your learning style might not match your classmates, I recommend that you figure out how you plan to organize your study guide before you meet with a study group. Talk to staff at Disability Services for tips on how to build your study skills for college.
Don’t forget about athletics and/or exercise!
If you played a sport in high school, don’t forget about it in college. Athletics can help you focus on your studies. Some students find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of work in college and make the mistake of throwing the activities they love out of the window because they feel they need to devote 100 percent of their time to their studies. This is counterproductive because you need to minimize stress as much as possible! Although it does take some time to go to the gym or participate on a team, it’s time well spent—the stress-reduction and health benefits you’ll get will help you be a better student.
Not super athletic? Most colleges offer club or intramural sports, which open doors for socializing as well. Yoga is a good way to work out and stay focused especially because it offers meditation, which can help calm the mind before heavy assignments. Many colleges and universities offer a yoga class through the Physical Education department, allowing you to earn credits. And don’t forget about other activities you enjoyed in high school. On campus, there are many opportunities to get involved in the arts, community service, religious groups and more. Extracurricular activities will help you stay focused and let off some steam.
Breathe and smile.
Students who struggle the most often want to do the best in college. If you’re reading this article, it means you care about your education regardless of the challenges LD throws your way. College is a time to transition into adulthood but it is also a time to figure yourself out. Take a breath, look around your campus and smile. You are here, you made it to college and you're going to be just fine. On my first day of college, I received a card from a special person that said, “Do your best, that’s all we expect from you.” This means that it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to struggle, as long as you wake up every morning and do your best you are one step closer to success. So don’t skip meals, don’t lose sleep and don’t cram for exams. Find a healthy work style and a way to incorporate your social life…and smile.
Kara Caroccio is an NCLD intern. She is currently a senior at Seton Hall University working on her degree in Biological Anthropology. She hopes to spread awareness for students who have learning disabilities in college by building a stronger LD community on college campuses.