university

Picking humanities paper topics

Picking a good topic for college papers in humanities classes can be challenging. It’s particularly hard if the subject of the class is new to you, and/or if you’re not used to choosing your own topics.

Good topics usually have all of these attributes:

  • You find the topic interesting.
  • The topic is relevant to the class.
  • Enough material is available that you’ll be able to find sources.
  • The topic is small/specific enough that you’ll be able to write about it in the amount of time you have.
  • The teacher knows enough about the topic to be able to help you if you get stuck.

One way to find topics that probably fit into all of those categories is to use the class syllabus:

  • Look through the syllabus of the class.
  • Find the reading that is most interesting to you.
  • When you do that reading, notice what you’re curious or confused about. 
  • Is there something that doesn’t make sense? 
  • Is there something that makes a surprising amount of sense?
  • Or something that you’d like to know more about? 
  • Or something that raises a question?
  • Once you’ve found something you want to know about, write down your question. 
  • Then look at the footnotes in the reading. 
  • Go look up the sources the reading cites.
  • It can also help to check out the book that the reading came from, or to look up other things by the author.

This usually works well because:

  • If the reading has a citation related to your question, that means there’s material on it. 
  • If your topic is related to the reading, your teacher will probably be at least somewhat familiar with it.
  • If you’re raising a question about the reading, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to finish the paper in the amount of time you have.
  • If the topic is coming out of a question you had while reading, you’re more likely to find it interesting while you write.
  • Writing about something closely related to the reading can also help you to review material and prepare for the final exam.

tl;dr Picking a paper topic in humanities classes can be hard. Using the readings and the syllabus to find topics can make it easier. 

Interactions with instructors

Anonymous said to :

Hi, do you know anything about student-professor interaction? I’m one of those students that stops by a professor’s office to talk and strikes up conversations on the way back to class very often. Is this OK? I’m not so good at reading social queues and I don’t know if I would know if said professor wasn’t OK with it, or if it was inappropriate. I’m not doing it for a good grade or academic advantages; I just like the conversations a lot.


realsocialskills said:


It’s ok to go to a professor’s office to talk to them during office hours; that is what office hours are for. It’s not ok to show up unannounced outside of office hours. If you want to talk to them outside of office hours, you have to make an appointment first. For most professors, the right way to do that is by emailing them and asking if they have time to meet with you.


If there are other students waiting to speak to the professor during office hours, be mindful of the fact that they also need to talk to the instructor. Wrap up the conversation in an amount of time that will make it possible for them to get a turn too (particularly if the conversation you want to have isn’t time-sensitive). 


It’s usually ok to strike up conversations after or on the way to class, but only up to a point. If they say that they need to do something, don’t keep chatting; take that as a sign that the conversation needs to end for now. Also, don’t try to follow them into their office.


tl;dr It’s ok to talk to professors during office hours. Don’t come by without an appointment at other times. 


Anyone else want to weigh in? Instructors - what kind of contact do you welcome from students? What is unwelcome. Which cues do you wish your students picked up on when you are trying to end conversations?

On being in school and working

dinosaurusrachelus:

realsocialskills:

What are some ways to balance work and school? Cus I’m working 25 to 30 hours a week and taking only three classes and I’m still behind. I don’t know how some people work fulltime AND go to school fulltime while paying rent and having kids.

realsocialskills said:

I don’t know how people balance that kind of schedule with school/kids/work. I think that it’s nearly impossible and that most people couldn’t do it.

Here are a couple of things I do know about passing classes under time pressure:

Choose your classes carefully:

  • Not all classes are equally time-consuming.
  • If you’re working a lot of hours, it’s probably better not to take all the really time-consuming classes in the same semester
  • (Eg: if you’re taking a class that has five papers, or lots of complicated programming assignments, it might be better not to take others than are like that at the same time).
  • It can also go a lot better to select classes based on who is teaching them rather than based on which description theoretically looks best
  • Classes go much more smoothly with teachers you’re readily compatible with
  • (particularly if you tend to need a lot of help)

Consider taking classes that are relevant to your work:

  • If some of what you’re working on at work can inform your class assignments, that makes life a lot easier
  • For instance, it’s much easier to write a paper on something you’ve researched for work than it is to research something else *and* what you have to work on at work
  • And more generally: if the concepts you’re learning in school are related to and overlapping with what you think about at work, it will be much less time consuming than if you have to do both separately
  • This can be true even if your work isn’t particularly intellectual on the face of it. No matter what your job is, it involves knowing things, and classes are easier if you can make knowing those things relevant.

It is possible to pass classes without doing all of the reading:

  • Most people don’t do all of the reading (except in seminar classes in which most of class consists of an in-depth group discussion of the reading).
  • If you are struggling to keep up, you may well be doing more of the reading than you should be.
  • It’s worth learning how to skim text in order to get the basic ideas
  • When a teacher cites something a lot in class, it’s generally worth reading it again after more closely

Having a study group or partner helps in several ways:

  • Perspective from other people can make it easier to tell whether you’re understanding what you need to understand
  • It can also make it easier to tell whether you’re doing *more* work than you need to in order to keep up and pass.
  • You can also pool knowledge. There will always be things that some people get and some people miss, and some people talk about it.
  • Meeting with others at a set time to do the work for a class can stop it from expanding to fill all available space
  • Even if you don’t have a regular study group, sometimes you can organize review sessions before tests. Those can also be helpful in similar ways.

Anyone want to weigh in? How do you pass classes when your schedule is very difficult?

dinosaurusrachelus said:

Oh hey, I did this for a while. Anon & others in similar situations, feel free to ask me stuff in my ask box if any of this sounds helpful or relevant.

For three semesters I had a full-time course schedule while working a retail job about 10-20 hours a week plus a few other side jobs on campus. My senior year I had a ¾ full class schedule while also working 20 hours a week in an office job off campus and 40+ hours per week on campus.

Unlike a lot of other students who work through college, I was actually well-supported by my parents and not in a precarious financial situation - I just wanted to build up work experience and be involved in a lot of things. I think most of this will still apply regardless, but it’s possible I have blinders on there and if so, I apologize. I also did not have kids, which might negate some of this too.

So here’s my advice.

If at all possible, find ways to study during work:

  • I think this is probably easier in retail or service jobs, where the tasks you’re doing are repetitive and leave room for your brain to think. I would often use my work shifts to study for tests, just by going over concepts in my head. Sometimes, I would even do readings at my checkstand (on late shifts when I didn’t have a manager there) or bring out flashcards.
  • Use your breaks. Even if it’s just 10 minutes (which is usually what’s required by law), pull out a textbook, skim a section of reading or look over some notes you can think about during the next part of your shift.
  • If you have a big assignment or test coming up, you might be able to talk to your manager about it. My manager once scheduled me to work the night before a midterm after I’d explicitly asked for the day off. He said he couldn’t change the schedule, so I asked him if it would be okay for me to have my book and notes at my register and review them when I didn’t have customers, and he agreed to it. Obviously you don’t want to seem unreliable, but asking for a small accommodation like that once in a while shouldn’t be a big deal if you have a decent manager and are otherwise a good worker.

Make school work around your work schedule:

  • You should have at least 2 days a week where you’re not working (maybe even 3 if you’re not quite full time). Set aside blocks of time on those days to tackle big assignments - papers, studying for upcoming tests, etc. Think of them as your second job, and try really hard not to let other things interrupt time you’ve set aside to study.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to your teachers/professors. If they have office hours, go in early in the semester, explain that you’re also working and discuss any challenges you think that might pose. Many (not all, but many) will think it’s really admirable you’re trying to go to school while also working, and will be interested in helping to accommodate you if you need something minor, especially if you ask them well in advance.
  • For example, I was able to take a biology test a day late (or early maybe, I don’t remember) because the exam was at 8 a.m. on a day after I got off work at 11. I think it’s helpful to ask in a way that suggests you understand it’s an imposition (eg. “I know this isn’t something that’s normally done, but I was wondering if there’s any possibility I might be able to take the test on x day instead”)
  • You might also see if you can find out what assigned readings are in advance (if they’re not all listed on a syllabus) and try to do the next week’s readings in advance during your off-days from work. I got into a schedule where I tackled a ton of homework on the weekend rather than doing a little bit each night on weeknights, which was what most students did.

Be really, really organized and efficient:

  • A lot of students spend forever on homework or assignments because they don’t have good study skills. That means you need to have really solid study skills to make up for your lack of time.
  • At the beginning of the semester/year, take a look at your schedule. Make a calendar of all due dates (I cannot stress this enough) - every paper, every exam, everything you know about in advance. If those items aren’t listed on the course syllabus, ask the professor.
  • Once you make the calendar, notice any times that are likely to be academically stressful (eg. three papers due the same week, midterms, whatever). Since you’ll be doing this well in advance, see if you can either a) adjust your work schedule to accommodate (maybe work fewer hours that week) or b) get some of the work done in advance (see below).
  • Set your own due dates. I once had three papers due on the same Friday, which was absolutely not going to work with my hectic schedule. So, I assigned myself my own due dates and treated them just as seriously as the ones my professors gave me. We had the prompts for the papers well in advance. I made one paper due the Monday at the beginning of the week, one on Wednesday and one on Friday and I stuck with those deadlines. That forced me to focus and work efficiently, and also prevented me from having some kind of sleep-deprived breakdown Thursday night.
  • If your school has an academic counselor or academic resource center, make a visit there early in the semester/year to get advice for improving your study and work habits.

Make other things less stressful:

  • My college had a club for first generation and working class college students. There could also be groups out there for non-traditional students (ie. students who are older than their early 20s) or students who are parents. See if there’s anything like that out there and what resources they might have. The group’s faculty advisor would also be a good source of support an ideas, and if nothing else, not feeling alone is so helpful and important.
  • If you’re in college, especially at a residential college, take advantage of the free food that’s often at events. (If you’re working during events, see if a friend can grab something for you.) I think about 50% of my meals senior year were discretely taken from events with food. Not having to cook as much frees up a lot of time for studying/work (and is cheaper!)

Try to avoid becoming miserable (this was always the hardest part for me):

  • Don’t do things like pulling regular all-nighters or working around the clock all the time. It might seem efficient, but it will make you exhausted and make it so much harder to do work and school.
  • Don’t feel guilty about taking the occasional day off after you’ve finished a major assignment or project. You don’t want to burn out, and you need rest and social time just like every other human being.
  • Give yourself breaks. Ten minutes an hour, 15 every two, whatever. You need to stay sharp and alert.
  • Find a friend or two who’s in the same situation and has been there who you can vent to when you need it.

When teachers refuse to accommodate your disability

onyourgoat answered your question “Anonymous said to realsocialskills: How do you ask for…”

What to do if they refuse to give you the accomodation? I couldn’t ever finish my work because they would refuse to write down things ect

realsocialskills said:

That’s a hard problem.

In my experience, you usually can’t make them write down assignments if they’re not doing it willingly (even with a letter). Sometimes you can, if you’re sufficiently insistent.

I’ve had surprisingly good results with reminding a teacher politely and discretely the first time, reminding them in front of other students the second time, and insisting more bluntly that it’s not ok for them to neglect to do this the third time. I’ve also had this blow up in my face. Your milage may vary. It’s not something I’d wholeheartedly recommend, but it does work sometimes.

Also, if the problem is that they don’t remember (or can’t be bothered to remember), sometimes reminding them by email works. Eg, by sending an email after every class asking them what the assignment is.

Another thing that can help is getting support from other students rather than the teacher. For instance, getting the assignment from a peer who is able to write it down. Or getting other students to also ask in the moment for it to be written down so it doesn’t have to come just from you all the time. (That helps me both in terms of getting what I need, and in not feeling like I’m alone and unreasonably demanding.)

If you are in college, another thing you can do is change classes. If a teacher is not treating you well and is making it impossible to do the work, treating that as a red flag and changing to a different class can make things a lot better. In college, there is often a lot more flexibility to work with people who are willing to accommodate you, and it’s important to learn how to take advantage of that flexibility.

lanthir:

realsocialskills:

How do you ask for accomendations when you don’t have a go-to reason to explain why you need it? I don’t know if I’m disabled (I find info about disablities completely inaccessible to me, though i’ve wondered from seeing people talk about things i’ve also experienced) but I do know I can’t learn in certain ways, or process information that’s presented in certain ways, and that I’m prone to sensory overload. people act like i’m being overdemanding when I bring it up. am i? if not, what do I do?
realsocialskills said:
 
I’ve been there, a lot. I was only diagnosed after college, even though I’ve always been disabled. I was just as impaired before diagnosis; being without a label didn’t magically create abilities. So I’ve spent a lot of time negotiating accommodations informally. 
 
I’ve found that what works best is to give a very simple version of the problem, and to ask for something specific. This can make accommodating you seem like a straightforward thing to do.
For instance: “This is hard for me to read. Is there an electronic copy?” works much better than ”I’m autistic and I have visual tracking issues and executive dysfunction and I need a different format.”
 
Or: “Noisy College Hall is big and crowded. I never understand anything there. Can we have class in the usual room instead of moving?”
  
Or: “I don’t understand the assignment when it’s said verbally. Can you email me the details?”
 
tl;dr You don’t have to go into great diagnostic detail when you’re negotiating with a teacher directly. You can start by describing the problem and a solution you think would work. This doesn’t always work, but it’s the most effective approach I know of for this situation.
 
Does anyone else want to weigh in? What’s worked for you when you’ve needed to ask a teacher for accommodations?

lanthir said:

It can vary a lot from one teacher to another.  I’ve had some professors be totally willing to accommodate me, provided with only the slightest information.  Ex: I told a professor that I find clamor overwhelming and upsetting, and I was given permission for my group to work in the hallway whenever we did small group work, to minimize noise.  This permission extended for two years, without me having to bring it up more than once.  

Or, I mentioned once to my adviser (with whom I had multiple classes most semesters for five years) that I have anxiety problems, and that some subject matter is triggering for me (I did not mention what, or why).  Hence forth, he was completely okay with me discretely stepping out into the hall to calm down whenever I needed to.

Then again, I had a professor adamantly refuse to give me any accommodation or assistance when I explained to her that being verbally told complex assignments in a loud and chaotic environment didn’t work for me at all.  She insisted that there was no possible way that could ever be difficult for anyone, and that there was no way she could write down, type up, or even slowly repeat the assignments.  She refused to answer my questions, and refused to allow me to wear headphones while working.  (It was a studio art class, at a school where having headphones on to work in the studio is common.)  I was penalized for having multiple panic attacks every single class.  

I think, if a professor is going to be helpful at all, the best way to go about asking is to stay after class or visit their office during their office hours, and explain as briefly but specifically as possible what accommodations you are requesting.  Professors who are kind and decent people will probably be willing to help.  But not everyone can be convinced, no matter what you tell them, or how you frame the request.

igotpillstheyremultiplying:

mare-of-night:

realsocialskills:

How do you ask for accomendations when you don’t have a go-to reason to explain why you need it? I don’t know if I’m disabled (I find info about disablities completely inaccessible to me, though…

igotpillstheyremultiplying said:

I was told by the Disabled Student Services of my school that no acccomodations would be given without a formal diagnosis *and* a letter from my doctor explaining exactly what accommodations I needed and why.

Which is why I am no longer in school, ha!

I hope OP’s school is better at actually providing services, because at my school all they did was gatekeep.

The woman I spoke to literally said to my face that she didn’t really believe that a lot of the disabled students were as disabled as they said they were.. These were people with doctor’s notes and everything..

Ugh.

realsocialskills said:

I wish that was surprising. I’m sorry that people did that to you.

I’ve found that disability services is not always representative of the teachers. Sometimes individual teachers care about accommodations and are reasonable even when the disability office functions as the office of access prevention.

Including people who get talked over

Often, in class conversations, some students will talk over other students and not let them get a word in edgewise. (This happens a lot between male and female students. It’s not always gendered that way but that’s a common dynamic.), eg:

  • Brenda: I thought the colors were too bright because they made the background more prominent than the…
  • Bob: Actually, the colors were too bright. They made the background more prominent than the foreground. That’s a problem because you have to be able to pay attention to the foreground.

When Bob is allowed to do this, it effectively cuts Brenda out of the conversation. Eg, this is one continuation I’ve seen a lot:

  • Bob: Actually, the colors were too bright. They made the background more prominent than the foreground. That’s a problem because you have to be able to pay attention to the foreground.
  • Teacher: Yes, distracting background colors detract from the most important parts of the scenes.

When the teacher says something like that, they’re responding to Bob and ignoring Brenda. If Brenda was making the same point, then she deserves to be acknowledged. If she was making a different point, then she deserves to be heard. It’s important to listen to all the students who participate sincerely, not just those who talk over others.

You don’t have to put up with this. You can turn your attention back to the student who was talking before they got interrupted. This is one way to do that:

  • You (ignoring Bob): Brenda, what do you mean about the background being more prominent? Can you say more?
  • This lets Brenda know that you value what she’s saying.
  • And it allows her to be heard even though Bob doesn’t value what she’s saying.
  • This also sends the message to other students that you will listen to them, take them seriously, and not allow them to be talked over.

This usually works better than directly addressing Bob in the moment. If you call Bob on it directly, that can lead to derailing the conversation into an argument about Bob, eg:

  • Teacher: Bob, please don’t talk over Brenda
  • Bob: I wasn’t talking over Brenda.
  • Teacher: She was saying something, and you interrupted her.

This can backfire because it keeps the focus on Bob rather than the person he was talking over. It’s also less powerful. You don’t need Bob’s permission to pay attention to the student he interrupted. You can just pay attention to her.

Another possibility:

  • Teacher: Bob, let Brenda finish then you can make your point. Brenda, what were you saying about the background colors?

This can work sometimes because it’s not directly accusing Bob of anything, and it immediately shifts the focus back to the person he interrupted. 

I think there are other approaches that work well too, but I don’t know what they are. Any of y'all want to weigh in?

I don’t think you should be encouraging ALL college kids ALL the time to email their professors to come out trans before class even starts. In order to keep their job, there’s pretty much no way a professor can’t say they’ll accommodate the request. But that doesn’t mean they won’t forget, “forget”, be hostile, grade harshly, or otherwise attempt to make the student’s life miserable in ways that the student can’t produce enough proof to complain about. Also, who says all profs are discreet?
realsocialskills said:
I agree with you. Emailing professors ahead of time is not a good strategy for every trans student. Some people do not want to be out to their professors, and they have ever right not to be. It’s a strategy for some people in some situations, not something universally applicable to all trans people.
But for some people, it’s a potentially useful strategy. For instance:
  • If you’re a woman and people know that you are a woman
  • But most people don’t know that you are trans and you’d like to keep it that way
  • And your legal name is something like Bruce.
  • At most schools, your teacher will get a list of students by legal names
  • So they’ll inevitably find out that the government thinks your name is Bruce
  • And, if they take roll, it’s likely that they’ll call you that name in front of everyone
  • This strategy is a way to discretely let the professor know that your name isn’t Bruce and you don’t want to be called Bruce in front of everyone

Or even if you’re just tired of hearing “But why do you go by Alex instead of Molly? Molly is a beautiful name!”. If people don’t know your legal name, they’re much, much less likely to try to call you by it or pester you about it.

It’s not a good strategy for everyone, but I can how it could be helpful for some people, and others in the reblog chain have said it worked for them.

Template for Preferred Name/Pronouns Letter to Teachers:

cardromancer:

realsocialskills:

thespookyprofessor:

Dear Professor [name],

My name is [Preferred name], and I will be attending your course [blank] on [days] at [time] this [term]. I am transgender and have not yet legally changed my name. On your roster is my legal name, [Legal name]. I would greatly appreciate it if you refer to me as [Preferred name] and use [pronouns] when referring to me. Thank you for your understanding, and I look forward to starting your course next week.

Sincerely,

~[Preferred name]

realsocialskills said:

Have any of y’all used something like this successfully?

cardromancer said:

My university has a system through counseling services where anyone can have their preferred name told to professors for them. I forgot to utilize this before my semester started (today) so I emailed something like this to all of my professors on Saturday night. Two of them have gotten back to me saying that it’s totally fine. So I would say yes!

An opinion on autism disclosure

chavisory:

Should I tell my roommates I’m autistic?

realsocialskills:

I’m an autistic student who’s starting college next fall. I’m wondering if I should tell my roommate(s?) about it first, or if this will affect the way they think of me. I like to think that I can “fit” in normally with everyone, but I might…

chavisory said:

I would hold off with disclosure until you actually know your roommates, know if you like them, and whether you trust them.  Those things may not be the case.  Or it may just be that they’re fine people but you’re not close enough friends that you feel like they need to know.  Sometimes roommates wind up really close friends, and sometimes they don’t and that’s fine.

I had roommates in college that I would have told if I’d known, and I had ones that I definitely would not have, but there was no way to tell which was which until I’d spent some time around them.

But I wouldn’t do any disclosing until you’ve met your roommates and at least have a sense of who they are.  The stigma and the popular misinformation surrounding autism is just incredible, and I think, if they know you’re autistic before they know you, you risk them coming into the roommate situation with a lot of pre-conceived, stereotype-based notions about you forefront in their minds, and you don’t need that.

Selling textbooks

lorentztransformation:

realsocialskills:

Do you have any advice for selling things? There is a Facebook page for my univeresity where you can post textbooks you want to sell and prices, and people message you. I especially am having problems arranging times and places to exchange, & with saying “no” if they want to pay me lower than we agreed on. Do you have any tips? Thank you!
realsocialskills said:
I’ve never sold things that way, because the logistics always seemed completely overwhelming. So unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of advice about how to arrange it.
I’m wondering if you might have better luck selling textbooks on half.com? On half.com, it’s a standardized procedure, the payment system makes it harder to pressure you into reducing the price, and you mail the books so you don’t have to make complicated meetup plans. In addition, a lot of people are looking on half.com, so it might be easier to find buyers.
Do any of y’all have suggestions about selling textbooks?

lorentztransformation said:

The one big problem I can see with using a website such as half.com is that there are lots of buyers, but there are often lots of sellers as well, which drives down the price. People tend to pay more face to face because of the convenience. Yeah, they can get that book for only $25 online, but they have to wait two weeks, so they’ll take your book for $50 now.

One of the biggest things that I’ve noticed when purchasing books face to face is that many people will bring someone they know with them. This is both safer and makes it harder for someone to try and renegotiate on the spot.

Maybe it’s possible to make a deal with a friend/fellow student to be each other’s buying buddy, where you discuss the details beforehand (price especially) so they can back you up should the person attempt to lower the price. If you don’t know someone who would appreciate back up, you can always just offer to buy/cook them lunch if you have the resources, although a lot of people will be happy to help without expecting anything in return if you explain why.

As for arranging times, I think it’s best to plan on only arranging meet ups for certain times (say, Saturdays 3 to 6 and Thursdays 12 to 2 or something). This is especially helpful if you’re planning on bringing a friend, as you two can figure out when you’re both free of regular obligations (class, work, religious/extra curric, etc) and would be able to meet on short notice.

realsocialskills said:

Have any of y'all used this method successfully?

replies about selling textbooks

jessiebellesjib answered: Most schools will have an SU-run place where students can sell/consign their textbooks. If not, Amazon might be a good place?

jonathanbogart answered: Every university I’ve been to has a buyback program at the campus bookstore so you can sell your old textbooks back to the school.

realsocialskills answered:

That’s true, but I think the prices are usually bad. Particularly with buyback programs.

For Anyone Who Doesn't Go By Their Legal/ Given Name:

strix-alba:

rabbitglitter:

I just wrote out my template for this term’s classes informing my professors that the name they see on their roster is not the name I go by.

I’m sharing it here in case you need some help wording yours. Just add your own information where the blanks are. Love to you for this upcoming term <3

Hello!

This coming term beginning on January 6, I’m signed up to be a part of your class. I wanted to send you this email as a heads up that while my legal name on your roster should read as “___________”, I prefer to be called ‘_______’.

Being a trans student can be awkward that first week when reading out names and I’m hoping to avoid confusion by informing you of my preferred name ahead of time.

I prefer ________ pronouns (_______ work wonderfully) and will also accept the use of my name (_____) in place of pronouns if you find that easier.

I’m excited to start this term in your class and I can’t wait to start this year!

Thank you in advance,

________ 

strix-alba said:

I used a similar letter for my first three semesters, until I had legally changed my name. In retrospect, I might add a line at the end of the next-to-last paragraph to the effect of “If you do accidentally use the wrong pronouns, please don’t make a big deal out of it; just correct and move on.” I had a few well-meaning professors who went out of their way to apologize - which I appreciated - in the middle of the class discussion - which made me want to sink into a hole in the floor and cry. I don’t know if the way that I’ve worded it is very polite, though, so I don’t think I would copy this word-for-word if there is a better way to say it.

2ifbifrost replied to your post“Anonymous asked realsocialskills: I’m really interested getting a…”
Very likely a statistics class will be required. Some schools have a particular “stats for social work” class. Colleges almost always have free tutoring options, especially for math. It is worth it to find out what they are and use them.
realsocialskills said:
Yes. Most universities have free tutoring options for math classes (and writing), and they are often good.

PTSD at school

I developed PTSD last year and took time off college, and I’m about to go back for the first time since then. I’ve been auditing classes for a few months now though and I’m suddenly terrified. I can barely read anymore (I can’t focus and it’s often panic inducing). I dissociate in class and sometimes even have highly humiliating episodes in lectures. I never retain anything and it feels futile and I’m afraid I’m gonna flunk out. If you have any advice I would appreciate it so much. Thank you!!
realsocialskills answered:
Since I don’t know you, all I can do is guess - but here are a couple of possibilities that comes to mind:
Do you find evaluation triggering? Like, tests, quizzes, papers, things where you have to prove that you mastered the material? Or knowing that you’re being graded?
If so, I wonder if maybe a full course load might be too much for you right now. Being terrified is exhausting and time consuming. So is dealing with being triggered a lot. That plus a full course load might be taking up more time than you have. 
It might be better to start by only taking one course for credit. That could give you space to work on figuring out what’s triggering and how to deal with it.
Another possibility: If you’re missing material because you dissociate in class, you might be able to get a notetaker as a disability accommodation. Or you might try recording the lectures (which is a disability accommodation you can get even if recording isn’t normally allowed). Similarly, if you find a particular *kind* of assessment triggering, you might be able to arrange a modified form (eg: if taking a quiz in-class causes you to dissociate, you might be able to arrange to do a take-home instead.)
You might also try collaborative note taking:
  • It’s a good strategy for anyone to try who is having trouble paying attention in lecture
  • But it might also be helpful for you if your episodes are the kind someone can help you avert if you see one coming on
  • Because then you’d already be communicating with your notetaking partner, so if you see a problem coming it might give your the opportunity to get help
Another possibility: Are you dealing with a triggering or cognitively incompatible teacher?
  • For some people, teachers who teach in certain ways can be triggering
  • Or can be so hard to understand that they exhaust you in ways that take away the cognitive abilities you need to do school
  • Or can be hostile to you in subtle but intensely destructive ways
  • Or any number of other serious points of incompatibility
  • If you’re having a debilitating reaction to a particular teacher, it’s probably really important to not take classes with that teacher, even if it looks like a good idea on paper

Do any of y'all have suggestions?

[GJ] Great Post About ASD Diagnostic Process!

girljanitor:

realsocialskills:

I don’t really know how to say this the best way, but apparently I “might” have Aspergers. I had been having some trouble at college, and the woman we spoke to at disabilities services said that “clearly, something isn’t connecting here.” But instead of getting me diagnosed or anything, everyone just kind of ignored it after that? The whole thing was really confusing. I don’t want to claim disability if I don’t have one, but I might have one, but I might not. I just don’t really know what to do
realsocialskills said:
That’s a hard place to be. It can be really hard when you think you might have a disability but you’re not sure. Especially when it’s a developmental disability and you are only starting to realize in adulthood that you might have it.
Several things I think help in this situation:
Take the problems you are having seriously:
  • You are having trouble, and that matters
  • You are not faking it
  • You are not being appropriative
  • It’s ok not to be sure exactly what’s going on
  • It’s important to take your needs seriously and to work on figuring out what would help
  • Keep in mind that whatever is going on, your needs matter
Whether or not you’re autistic, things written by and for autistic people might help you:
  • It’s ok to use them whether or not you’re autistic
  • The point is to do things that help you understand yourself and function well in the world, and that will involve learning from a lot of people
  • People with different kinds of disabilities and differences have substantially overlapping experiences, and it’s ok and important to learn from one another’s communities 
  • One thing that might be particularly helpful is a guide the Autistic Self Advocacy Network made called Navigating College. It has a lot of really helpful practical suggestions
  • It’s probably a good idea to look at stuff written by and for people with other kinds of disabilities too (particularly ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and depression, but a surprising number of things end up being helpful to know about cross-disability)

It helps to identify specific things you’re having trouble with, for instance:

  • Are you having trouble reading?
  • Are you having trouble paying attention?
  • Do you get stuck trying to figure out what you should be doing?
  • Are you forgetting to eat?
  • Are you having sensory problems?
  • Is handwriting difficult for you?
  • Are you having trouble speaking, or processing speech quickly enough to participate in conversations?
  • Is it hard for you to navigate and get yourself to where you need to be?
  • Do you have problems planning projects?
  • Other things?

It’s helpful to identify the specific things you’re having trouble with, for several reasons:

  • There is a lot that people know about how to help with specific problems.
  • For instance, if reading is an issue for you, changing the font, using audio books, or using ebooks rather than print books might help.
  • Knowing a diagnostic label can be very helpful, especially in identifying people similar to you who might understand
  • But it’s even more important to figure out what you’re having trouble with in practical terms, and what can help
  • The tests doctors and specialists use to diagnose learning disabilities tend to paint a very broad brush, and they don’t necessarily give you great information on what exactly is going on or what would help
  • The more specific you can be about what’s going on, the more likely it is that people will be able to help you

If you’re in college, seeking formal evaluation and diagnosis is probably a good idea:

  • It is far easier to get schools to make accommodations if you have a diagnosis
  • There are a lot of fairly standard modifications that schools are used to making, but which they are generally only willing to make if a doctor recommends that they do so
  • And whether or not you disclose to individual professors is still your choice
  • There are downsides to diagnosis, but the advantages probably outweigh them in your situation

Don’t wait for diagnosis, though:

  • Diagnosis is a tool, not a solution
  • It can help you, but it won’t make things go away
  • There are problems you can solve now
  • And diagnosis is more helpful if you already know some things that would help you, because often doctors won’t think to put things in their report unless you suggest them
  • Working on living with a disability or even just a difference is a lifelong process.
  • And ultimately, you have to figure out for yourself how to manage that, and you shouldn’t wait for anyone’s permission

Don’t worry about being appropraitive or falsely claiming disability:

  • Whatever is going on, your problems are real and you should take them seriously
  • It’s ok to suspect that you might have an autism spectrum disorder and be wrong; that doesn’t hurt anyone
  • Figuring things out has to start somewhere, and it’s ok if you have to think through several possibilities to get the right words for yourself
  • The important thing is that you figure out what is going on and what can help you
  • That can be really difficult and scary, but it also makes life a lot better

Good luck. You’re in a scary place, but it’s possible to figure things out and get through this. You will be ok.

girljanitor said:

I’m so happy to see this post on my dash right now.

ALL of this is so good and important, but especially the bolded!!!! The most important part of any diagnostic process, whether entirely self-directed or with the help of a community, medical professionals or social workers, is the way you think about yourself and your own processes of living.

I think something that gets lost when people discuss diagnosis is that every diagnostic process is at least partially self-directed. If you don’t tell the doctor your symptoms, the process can’t get started anyways.

I agree that paper diagnosis could be an important tool for this student, because navigating college is difficult for everyone; doubly so for people with disabilities, and TRIPLY so for people with undiagnosed disabilities!!! Whether you decide to use self-help and community resources or to go through the diagnostic process with a psychiatrist or psychologist, understanding and exploring what kinds of changes could maximize your success and happiness will be very valuable.

As an addendum: I work in Disability Services at a college, and if anyone has any questions about what kind of accommodations are usually available and what kind of documentation is required to receive them, I’m always willing to answer them!

I don’t really know how to say this the best way, but apparently I “might” have Aspergers. I had been having some trouble at college, and the woman we spoke to at disabilities services said that “clearly, something isn’t connecting here.” But instead of getting me diagnosed or anything, everyone just kind of ignored it after that? The whole thing was really confusing. I don’t want to claim disability if I don’t have one, but I might have one, but I might not. I just don’t really know what to do
realsocialskills said:
That’s a hard place to be. It can be really hard when you think you might have a disability but you’re not sure. Especially when it’s a developmental disability and you are only starting to realize in adulthood that you might have it.
Several things I think help in this situation:
Take the problems you are having seriously:
  • You are having trouble, and that matters
  • You are not faking it
  • You are not being appropriative
  • It’s ok not to be sure exactly what’s going on
  • It’s important to take your needs seriously and to work on figuring out what would help
  • Keep in mind that whatever is going on, your needs matter
Whether or not you’re autistic, things written by and for autistic people might help you:
  • It’s ok to use them whether or not you’re autistic
  • The point is to do things that help you understand yourself and function well in the world, and that will involve learning from a lot of people
  • People with different kinds of disabilities and differences have substantially overlapping experiences, and it’s ok and important to learn from one another’s communities 
  • One thing that might be particularly helpful is a guide the Autistic Self Advocacy Network made called Navigating College. It has a lot of really helpful practical suggestions
  • It’s probably a good idea to look at stuff written by and for people with other kinds of disabilities too (particularly ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and depression, but a surprising number of things end up being helpful to know about cross-disability)

It helps to identify specific things you’re having trouble with, for instance:

  • Are you having trouble reading?
  • Are you having trouble paying attention?
  • Do you get stuck trying to figure out what you should be doing?
  • Are you forgetting to eat?
  • Are you having sensory problems?
  • Is handwriting difficult for you?
  • Are you having trouble speaking, or processing speech quickly enough to participate in conversations?
  • Is it hard for you to navigate and get yourself to where you need to be?
  • Do you have problems planning projects?
  • Other things?

It’s helpful to identify the specific things you’re having trouble with, for several reasons:

  • There is a lot that people know about how to help with specific problems.
  • For instance, if reading is an issue for you, changing the font, using audio books, or using ebooks rather than print books might help.
  • Knowing a diagnostic label can be very helpful, especially in identifying people similar to you who might understand
  • But it’s even more important to figure out what you’re having trouble with in practical terms, and what can help
  • The tests doctors and specialists use to diagnose learning disabilities tend to paint a very broad brush, and they don’t necessarily give you great information on what exactly is going on or what would help
  • The more specific you can be about what’s going on, the more likely it is that people will be able to help you

If you’re in college, seeking formal evaluation and diagnosis is probably a good idea:

  • It is far easier to get schools to make accommodations if you have a diagnosis
  • There are a lot of fairly standard modifications that schools are used to making, but which they are generally only willing to make if a doctor recommends that they do so
  • And whether or not you disclose to individual professors is still your choice
  • There are downsides to diagnosis, but the advantages probably outweigh them in your situation

Don’t wait for diagnosis, though:

  • Diagnosis is a tool, not a solution
  • It can help you, but it won’t make things go away
  • There are problems you can solve now
  • And diagnosis is more helpful if you already know some things that would help you, because often doctors won’t think to put things in their report unless you suggest them
  • Working on living with a disability or even just a difference is a lifelong process.
  • And ultimately, you have to figure out for yourself how to manage that, and you shouldn’t wait for anyone’s permission

Don’t worry about being appropraitive or falsely claiming disability:

  • Whatever is going on, your problems are real and you should take them seriously
  • It’s ok to suspect that you might have an autism spectrum disorder and be wrong; that doesn’t hurt anyone
  • Figuring things out has to start somewhere, and it’s ok if you have to think through several possibilities to get the right words for yourself
  • The important thing is that you figure out what is going on and what can help you
  • That can be really difficult and scary, but it also makes life a lot better

Good luck. You’re in a scary place, but it’s possible to figure things out and get through this. You will be ok.