Finding the Right Fit: Things for Autistic Students to Think About When Choosing College Classes

If you have autism, choosing your first college courses might seem daunting. With the added stress of leaving behind a well-known environment, as well as friends and family for what might be the first time, pick a course load that feels manageable. Also look for classes that won’t overwhelm you. Your introduction into a college setting may feel shocking, so it’s vital that your classes don’t. Fortunately, there are many ways to scope out classes you might be interested in attending, as well as some tips to make balancing them feel easier.

Keep a balance between your general education classes and courses that may more specifically grab your interest. It may make your course load, and overall college transition, feel more manageable if you’re attending one or two classes a semester that feel new, fun, and exciting. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Maybe you’re not quite sure what exactly piques your interest yet. Try things out! You can drop or pick up classes in the beginning of every semester in case you don’t feel comfortable with the ones you’ve chosen. Also, consider what time of day you function best, and look for courses scheduled during that time. It may take you longer to get from one class to another since most college campuses are large, and each college department may have its own building. Your history classes might be on one end of campus and your chemistry classes on the other. Keep this in mind when choosing your courses as well so that you have enough time to get from class to class without being late.

You may find it difficult to stay organized in the very beginning, and that’s okay. College, and your course load, no matter how prepared you are, can be overwhelming. There are more things to keep track of and add into your daily routine, and it’s totally okay to integrate them slowly. Consider talking with your professors about your potential needs. Those needs might include a quiet testing environment, extended time on projects, or organizational assistance. Professors are there to help you, and they want to see you succeed.

Feel free to talk with your professors about your potential needs, whether that means a quiet testing environment, extended time on projects, or organizational assistance. They are there to help you and they want to see you succeed.

Speaking of professors, before you choose your courses, sometimes it’s a good idea to look up professors on websites such as ratemyprofessor.com, or uloop.com. This helps ensure you’re choosing courses taught by teachers who will positively assist you and effectively understand your needs. If you use these sites, you should look for reviews that indicate a teacher’s willingness to collaborate with students. Also check that students feel heard and respected. While student-review sites can’t tell you everything about a professor, you may be able to get some sense of how they conduct their classrooms from what other students have said.

It’s also important to consider your continued therapy engagement before choosing your course load. Ask yourself questions such as: How much time per week will I be dedicating to therapy? How long will it take me to get to and from my therapist’s office? You want to make sure you’re not overloading yourself with various engagements. Therapy is important. It’s vital to continue it throughout this change in your life, and you don’t want it to cause additional stress.

College can be an incredible tool to help you find out who you are, what you love, and what you’re good at. Part of this process starts with the course load you choose. Remember, it’s all a learning experience, so don’t be afraid to try subjects you don’t have much experience with, you might surprise yourself!

What do you think of our tips for autistic students choosing college classes for the first time? What tips do you have?

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Chelsea Harris has appeared in The Portland Review, Smokelong Quarterly, The Fem, Minola Review and Grimoire, among others. She co-runs a zine and reading series in Bellingham, WA called Wallpaper Magazine. Chelsea received her MFA from Columbia College Chicago. You can find her work here: chelseamarieharris.tumblr.com/writing

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