Preparing Yourself For Online College

An overview of online campus life with tips for making a smooth transition into academia as a neurodiverse adult.


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The daunting task of starting college can occur at any age. Whether you are straight out of high school or a repeat attendee, the stress of online or on-campus school is unavoidable. As a neurodiverse individual, you will face more obstacles and stressors in your educational journey. Therefore, here is an overview of online college life and some helpful tips to lessen your load. Hopefully, this information can remove some barriers you face when you start school.


Choosing your degree


One difficult task is picking your academic pathway. The degree program you choose will shape your experiences for the next two to four years. However, you do not need to have a detailed plan to start college. The recruiter you speak with during your application is there to help you choose applicable classes. Some class credits apply to multiple degrees, so narrow down your interests to two or three topics. After that, speak with your recruiter to find out what courses are relevant.


You will speak with your advisor after being accepted to the college or university. Remember that this is your education. You have the right to choose your degree and what classes interest you. You have the power to change your schedule. Keep in mind, if you are on financial aid altering your schedule can impact funding. Therefore, always speak with financial services before making any changes.


Own your path and remember this is your education.


Depending on the type of campus, the initial classroom experience will vary. In current times, online school is becoming increasingly common. The atmosphere online is great for independently-minded workers. However, social isolation is a difficult transition for some.


Optimizing your online learning


Social isolation occurs when people are interacting with a limited number of people. During quarantine, many felt this struggle of craving interactions, but you are limited to a computer screen. At the same time, online learning is better for some adults than attending on campus. There are personality types that thrive on campus and those that find the ultimate level of success online.


Introverts often enjoy independent tasks that are self-paced. Online classes allow you to know the deadlines and set your schedule to get the work done. For example, the University of Phoenix assignments are due every Monday. You have access to the syllabus at least one day in advance which allows you to plan your five-week block.


Plan for the five or eight-week course in advance and set aside time for course work.


Talking with disability services


If you need reasonable accommodations you will connect with disability services. The operation of disability services is unique to each college. However, the first few steps to getting accommodations are similar. First, tell your advisor you want to speak with a disability service. They will provide the name, email, and phone number of the contact. Please note that your advisor CANNOT ask you questions about your disability. Since your disability status is medical information and will not be shared with your advisor. Any reasonable accommodations request is protected and confidential.


Interacting with faculty and classmates


There is no requirement to disclose your disability or neurodiverse status. However, it can be helpful to connect with your faculty to confirm they received the notification from disability services about your accommodations. Your faculty is not told your diagnosis, so it is up to you to share specifics if you wish. An email to your instructor can look like this:


Hello [enter name], I am excited to get started in your class, but wanted to confirm that you received the accommodation information from disability services. The reasonable accommodations give me [enter accommodation] for the duration of the class. Please let me know if you haven't received the paperwork and I will connect with my disability services advisor. Again, I am thrilled to learn about [enter class title] and look forward to hearing from you!


During the class, you may work in teams. If you need specific accommodations for a team setting, make sure to speak with your disability services advisor ahead of time. There may be a specific process for accommodations related to key university objectives like teams.


If you work in a team, it may be beneficial to disclose any adaptive communication you need to the leader. Extra instructions, clarification on the team assignment, or a meeting with the instructor and the leader to make sure everything works for you.


It is okay to insist on clear communication that fits your needs. Remember, this is your grade and your degree and it is important to advocate for your success.


What does education mean to you?


The key to navigating college is knowing your goal and being determined to succeed. No matter your neurodiversity or disability you can thrive in your academic studies.


If you would like to learn more about how to Navigate University Level Accommodation Processes join us for our webinar on June 14th at 1:00 pm MST!


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