College is a huge transition. But many autistic individuals are about to hit the road and take that leap in a few months. Some of us already finished degrees, while others are in the midst. Either way, those first few months stay with us all. Fraught with new settings, new people, and new schedules, the weight of this big step leaves an impression.
My undergrad degree included a move away from home. Here, I’ll share a few tips on how to manage college life. Please feel free to share your own college advice in the comments!
1) Ask for accommodations. This may feel overwhelming at first, but it can make all the difference. Brainstorm with your psychiatrist before moving in order to come up with a written list of supports that suit you and your autism. This may include a single dorm, extra exam time, dining options for your sensitivities, and prescheduled office hours with professors.
2) Consider classroom etiquette. Participation may or may not be a part of your grade. Essentially, this means that you should speak up 1-2 times per class. As autistic individuals, we tend to under or overshare. Personally, I overshared. I actually got docked on my grade once for over-participation! Even if the classroom is silent after a professor posits a question, don’t speak up if you’ve already talked twice.
3) Making friends is hard. I won’t pretend like socializing came easy for me. Try joining a club that you feel passionate about and consistently joining in their group events. Many clubs have structured weekly meetings, and nothing sounds better to an autistic person than structured socializing. Just remember: Don’t ask specifics about other students’ grades or financial aid, and keep that information about yourself private.
4) Write your class schedule everywhere! Put it on your bulletin board, in your phone calendar, and in your planner every week. Visit the location of each class before your first week of classes. This way, you’ll feel more grounded and be able to gauge how long it takes to travel from class to class.
5) Call home, but not too often. Once a week is a good maximum. If we think too much on what we left, it may be harder to move forward.