The Mighty Logo

6 Life Tips for the College Student With a Disability

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

College life.

A period of time just about every teenager looks forward to. Life is overflowing with excitement, as your day-to-day life becomes something resembling a hot new teen drama television show filled with new friends, new classes, a routine littered with unfamiliarity. The descriptive word “child” that was used to describe you just three months prior suddenly becomes embarrassing as a new era of your life begins.

You may think you have life figured out. As a college graduate with a disability, I too look back and think “How silly was I?” I dealt with some of the same types of newness that students without disabilities faced, just shone in a different light. Life taught me the greatest lesson: I am just like everyone else, and even though I was a legal adult, I did not know everything there was to know about life.

And at almost 26 years old, I still don’t.

I have learned a lot about what it means to be a responsible, sensible adult. I’m sharing my experience and some quick tips on how to succeed in college from my unique perspective; my adult challenges as someone with cerebral palsy are really much similar to those without such an issue. These tips can help the new and lost college student, but they can also be applied as knowledge for the tired somebody.

1) You’re going to be tired. As someone with cerebral palsy, I get exhausted fairly quickly. College sure kept me on my toes, and I wish someone would have told me that classes and studying would be so much work! If you’re sitting in class and find yourself nodding off during a long, boring lecture, don’t worry, that’s normal.

2) Days off are necessary. Days off are a must for the college student and are still very much present in my life. Cerebral palsy induced fatigue forces me to slow down my busy schedule from time to time. Word to the wise: you can’t attack life at full blast all of the time, otherwise you risk burning yourself out. It’s totally acceptable to spend a day in your pajamas lounging in bed while  binge watching Netflix and catching up on sleep.

3) Diet + Exercise = Energy. Diet and exercise play a huge role in your general success as a human being. In college, your diet, exercise, and sleep habits help determine your brain power; as for the working adult with cerebral palsy, those factors help determine your level of functional energy. Take care of you. Get plenty of rest. Eat something more than potato chips and ramen noodles. Don’t stay out all night when you know you have that 8 a.m. math class to go to.

4) Just.Keep.Going. Life as a successfully functioning human can be difficult; sometimes we feel we just “can’t adult” some days. I have found the best way to charge through those times is to latch onto your inner strength. Force yourself to do a little bit every day. Set small goals instead of large ones. No matter how much you feel like quitting, just keep going!

5) Relax. The whole fun aspect of college is coming into contact with new friends and opportunities to experience all things new. Friends are very much a need. Being social keeps your mood in an upswing and helps you to relax.

6) Priorities are everything. Yes, college can be a memorable slice of your life, but keep your priorities in mind. Work hard, play later. I was automatically labeled “different” by my classmates all through school and thought of as unworthy of anyone’s friendship. I was constantly made to feel as though I had something to prove. The same struggle can be felt by many first time college students, as maybe they’ve had a silent struggle no one knows about.

Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or what they think about you. The people who open their mouths are using their only source of power. They are just all mouth, trying to build themselves up through tearing others down. You have such power in just being yourself. Hold onto your truth. Slay life as hard as you possibly can. Don’t overload yourself or try to be someone or something you’re not.

You are worth far more than you could imagine.

Getty image by Monkey Business Images.

Originally published: February 20, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home