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Strategies for Success

Anticipating expectations

One way to start off on the right foot in college is to know what your professors will expect from you.
Each faculty member will be different but some common things your professors will expect from you include:
  • Reading the syllabus
    • Many instructors open the class with a review of the syllabus. This process offers you a good opportunity to highlight key information, such as due dates, make notes of instructor preferences and ask any questions that you may have about the course set-up. It is also a good idea to place your syllabus in your class notebook, and to refer to it throughout the semester.
  • Going to class regularly and being on time
    • Attendance and grading policies will usually be explained the first day of class and in the syllabus. However, if attendance is not part of your grade, your instructors still expect to see you in class.
  • Being an active learner
    • Listen and ask questions in class, take notes manually or through a notetaker, and participate in class discussions.
  • Reading the assigned materials before class
    • When assignments are listed for specific days, this usually means that the assignment is due on that day. For example, class readings for a given day should be read before you go to class.
  • Asking your professor if you have questions
    • Read the syllabus to find out when your professors have office hours and visit them during these scheduled hours. Be prepared when you go to see them by having specific questions to ask them. Asking them to give their lecture again is not appropriate. However, asking for clarification on a specific point is appropriate.
  • Turning in assignments on time
    • At the beginning of the semester go through each of your syllabi and find the due dates for your papers, tests, quizzes, etc., and put them into your planner. This step will help remind you of important due dates. Remember to look at your planner often.
    • Check the syllabus for your professor’s late policy. Some professors will not accept late assignments at all while others deduct points for each day the assignment is late. 
    • If you can’t make the deadline, contact your professor ahead of time and find out if you can have an extension. Not all professors will give extensions but some may give extensions based on extenuating circumstances.

Managing Your Time

“Time management is the best tool. By setting aside a block of time every morning, afternoon, and night, I always have ample amounts of time to study.”

Student veterans often report one of their biggest challenges in college is managing time. In the military, your time was structured by others.  In college, you are responsible for creating a schedule and managing your time. 

To further complicate matters, you will have gaps of time between classes that you need to fill, and may have family and work responsibilities that you need to meet. Fortunately, numerous tips and strategies are available to help you manage your time. One tool that many student veterans find helpful is to develop a master time schedule which identifies your regular weekly activities. Place a paper copy of your schedule in your notebook, put the schedule into the calendar function of your smart phone, or use an online calendar to manage your activities.   

Knowing Your Learning Style

“Knowing what my learning style is has opened a whole new world for me to learn and grow.”

Everyone has preferences for learning. If you understand how you learn best when gaining new information, studying for exams or acquiring new skills on a job, you can save yourself hours of time and frustration. Your learning preferences show how your brain processes or translates information. The most commonly mentioned learning styles include visual, auditory and tactile (or kinesthetic) learning. It is common to use more than one learning style, but don’t be surprised if you find that one of these styles works for you better than the other. 
Visual learner:
You learn best when information is presented visually and in a written language format, such as through books, graphics or diagrams.
Auditory learner:
You learn best when information is presented orally, such as in class lectures and study groups where discussion of key concepts can be heard.
Tactile or kinesthetic learner:
You learn best when you participate in hands-on activities such as application activities, demonstrations or physical activities.
Take a learning style inventory to determine your learning style and recommended learning strategies.

Understanding the Impact of Injury

“I have to study ten times longer and ten times harder.”

Having an injury may have turned your life upside down, but it doesn’t need to keep you from achieving your education and career goals.  The key is to understand the obstacles that you face, and to develop new strategies for getting the job done. 

Many injuries are first identified through medical or psychological evaluations. Request copies of these reports so that you know what information is in them. These reports can be somewhat technical and difficult to understand, but it is important for you to learn what the information means. A first step in understanding your injury is to read your reports and to talk with your physician, therapists, or other professionals to explain:
  • What is your injury?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What challenges do you have?
  • What accommodations are needed in class?
  • What suggestions, strategies or other resources are recommended?
  • What assistive technology devices might be helpful?
The chart below lists some injuries and challenges which may be experienced by student veterans, and strategies for addressing these challenges in a college environment. This list is not comprehensive, but is intended to give you some examples of ways in which limitations can be overcome.
Common Challenges
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Remembering content covered during class
  • Use digital recorder or smart pen to record lectures
  • Study in groups
  • Request instructor’s lecture notes or presentation
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Feeling stressed, jittery, and irritable
  • Take regular breaks
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Use PTSD Coach
  • Talk to other student veterans
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Attending class in building without elevators
Request academic accommodations such as priority registration or relocation of class
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