Who Am I?
I attended a small, liberal arts college in upstate, New York, beginning in the fall of 2007. My first semester started off well; I liked most of the classes I was taking and was excited about the new things I was learning. I started to slip a little bit in the middle of the semester, due to all the work that professors were throwing at me and my lack of time management skills. I ended up doing alright for the semester and decided I had to do better in the spring. Spring semester rolled around and classes were going well until I had a death in the family. My grandmother passed away halfway through the semester and things started to go downhill from there. I started falling behind and couldn’t get the help I needed to really boost me back up. I got a tutor for one class and managed to pull off somewhat decent grades, but I ended up on academic probation. As each semester went by, I would start off strong, but slip midway through. I tried to reach out for support, by contacting the head of learning disabilities services, but I felt I wasn’t getting what I needed. Spring semester my sophomore year was the hardest. At that point, I was stressed with the amount of work each class had and the lack of support I was getting from each professor. I tried to reach out and tell them that I had ADHD, but it didn’t seem to help. I still felt they didn’t understand. My psychology professor treated me like I was dumb or lazy and was just making up excuses. I continued to reach out to the head of learning disabilities services, but she still wasn’t helpful. At that point, I was too far gone to really boost myself up and get good grades. I then decided that I needed to take a medical leave and get out of that college.
I felt like a failure after I left that college. I thought I must have been an idiot if I couldn’t even finish out spring semester of sophomore year. But even though I was feeling so down, I was determined to find another college where I could find the support and do well. I started searching for colleges even before I took my medical leave because I knew I wasn’t going back to that school the next year. Sometime during the summer after my leave, I found out about Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. Landmark College specializes in supporting students with learning disabilities and ADHD and helps give students the tools to do well, despite whatever disability they may have. This college seemed amazing, and after a visit to the campus, I decided to give it a try.
Learning about how I learn
What helped me succeed at Landmark was my determination to take advantage of the resources that were available to me. The most helpful resources have been academic advising, coaching and faculty office hours. At Landmark, students are assigned to an advisor that they have an opportunity to meet and set goals with each week. Advising has played a major role in my academic success. My close connection with my advisor helped me to do better in school. I meet with her whenever I have any kind of issue and she will work with me and help me solve it. She is especially helpful when it comes to helping me structure my time. Having my advisor has taught me to manage my time better and to reframe my negative thoughts into positive ones.
Coaching is another tool that I have found useful in my Landmark career. Coaching is a method in which a coach teaches a client how to better manage his or her executive functioning skills. I meet with my coach for half an hour once a week and go over my work schedule for the week. She asks me what assignments I have to do, whether they are past due, present or future assignments. She will then help me prioritize each assignment and help me organize my time for when I will do each task. Coaching has helped me manage my assignments better, so I can plan and see when things will be done.
I like to make connections with the people I am working with, so if I start to fall, I will have a good support system to help push me back up. I have found that the use of instructors’ office hours is particularly helpful for success in a class. By going to office hours, it shows the professor that you are putting effort into the class, are dedicated to doing well and it can help clarify any confusion you have about an assignment. Going to office hours also lets you build a connection with the professor, which I think is important, so he or she will be more willing to help you if you start to slip.
Although my first semester at Landmark was a little rocky because I still had feelings of doubt from my last college experience, the tools I just mentioned helped me gain success. I decided I couldn’t repeat the experience of my sophomore year and persevered through. I ended up raising my grade from an F to a B in my Perspectives in Learning class, and I could not have been more proud. This B changed my perspective on my academic self. I felt smart for the first time. After receiving a 3.0 for the semester, I decided I must continue to do well and was determined to take the bull by the horns and go! After a semester of determination and accessing resources, I made Dean’s List and Phi Theta Kappa.
Experience is the best teacher. Even though my first college experience was awful, I don’t regret it because I learned a lot and know that I will actively seek out advisors, tutors/coaches and professors as I pursue my education beyond Landmark. If I didn’t go through that traumatic experience, I wouldn’t have found Landmark, learned the tools I needed to succeed and, best of all, learned that I AM smart and capable, despite having ADHD. As Paul Simon says, “You’ve got to learn how to fall before you learn to fly!”