Navigating College with Disabilities

Image Source: Isabel Nguyen

Getting through college in the first place is hard, and having a disability, chronic illness, or psychological disorder can make it even more difficult. As someone who graduated recently while managing lupus and an anxiety disorder, I want to tell other students that it is possible and offer some advice: 

  1. Know your limits and respect them.

Having disabilities meant that I had more physical and mental limits. It is frustrating when your body can’t do what you want it to, but I knew that it was so important to listen to my body and not overexhaust it. In college, there is a lot of pressure to constantly be busy and do more, but I had to learn to let go of this pressure and save your energy for the things that really matter.  

  1. Don’t feel guilty for saying no or “missing out.”  

Sometimes, my disabilities prevented me from going out with friends or attending an event. It was easy to feel left out and guilty, especially with the existence of social media. However I had to remember that it wasn’t my fault or even my choice not to go out. There would be other opportunities to connect and true friends would be understanding.  

  1. Seek support.  

I really encourage students, disabled or not, to seek support when they feel like they need it. Academically, schools are required to accommodate students with disabilities. Reach out to your school’s office of disabilities to see what kinds of accommodations they can offer you. Examples of accommodations include increased time on exams, more excused absences, and volunteers to take notes for you. Of course, social support from friends and family and professional support from doctors and therapists are equally as important. 

  1. Celebrate your accomplishments. 

Finally, celebrate your achievements big and small! Actions that seem mundane for non-disabled people to do like exercising or socializing for hours can take a lot of effort for some people with disabilities. I was lucky that my parents and my therapist frequently acknowledged how hard I was working and expressed their pride. Eventually, I became proud of myself too.

Regardless of your circumstance or disability status, I hope these tips help!