On paper, I’m an amazing student. I have a Bachelors degree in Mathematics with Education (with honours), a postgraduate primary teaching PGCE, and last year I graduated with distinction in my Masters in Creative Writing. I’ve always been academically intelligent, and I’ve always been a pretty hard worker (during my adult life at least. I sucked at working hard as a teenager.)

But of course, further education isn’t just about studies, is it?

 

It’s unsurprising how often I get asked advice about preparing for college or university, whether through this site or on Autistic Not Weird’s Facebook page [all links open in new windows so they won’t interrupt your reading]. Educational establishments are loaded with brilliantly capable autistic people, but not all of them find further education easy. (And that’s leaving aside the fact that moving away from home is just generally tricky, with or without autism being involved.)

So here’s some advice I have for those starting out. If this is the first time you’ve visited Autistic Not Weird, welcome to the site and I hope you find it useful. (Also, feel free to visit the Facebook community, or my YouTube channel. There are even Patreon rewards if you feel like my work is worth supporting.)

 

Five tips for autistic students about to start college or university

Some of these cover the academic side of university, and some the social side. As is the case with plenty of my articles, feel free to pick and choose which pieces of advice apply to you.

I’ll start with advice I wish I’d known right at the beginning…

 

1. You don’t have to do what everyone else does.

When I was seventeen, most people’s descriptions of university included getting repeatedly drunk, wasting time at really loud nightclubs, and having sex with other students at random. More than that, I was pretty much encouraged to believe that if you didn’t get involved with these things, you weren’t doing university right.

This was pretty concerning for me and many of my friends, who lived our lives far away from all that stuff.

 

But the thing is… none of these ‘university life’ descriptors are on the final exam. You haven’t ‘done it wrong’ just because you didn’t do what everyone else did. While everyone else is out partying to loud music, there’s nothing to stop you from staying home and playing Mario Kart with your friends. While everyone else is trying to have sex with other random students, there’s nothing to stop you from, er, doing whatever it is you do in place of that.

The only way of ‘doing it wrong’ is to deliberately force yourself into activities you despise just because you feel it’s something that must be done in order to live a ‘valid’ student life.

 

In the same way that nobody at university cares how cool you were at school, nobody in the world of employment cares what life you lived at college. Executive offices don’t have signs saying “your liver must be this damaged in order to enter,” and job application forms will ask for your number of academic qualifications rather than your number of STDs.

 

So as easy as it may be, try not to feel pressure to experience university in the same way that “everyone else” does. (It’s not even everyone else anyway – just the loudest people.) These are your years of further education, and they should be experienced on your terms.

 

2. To make friends, find the common ground.

This is another point about the social side of college/university. Among the messages I get from people preparing for further education, most of them reference a fear of making new friends. It’s a fear I had too: I had a decent number of close friends before university, but I felt alienated from most of my peers in general. So… how on Earth do you meet people you might actually become friends with?

You find the common ground.

 

Most friendships (or relationships in general) are based on common ground, whether it’s interests, beliefs, attitudes or similar personalities. The more common ground you have with a new person, the stronger an anchor you have if you want to build a friendship with them.

I don’t know what it’s like in America, but British universities have clubs and societies for just about everything. The University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne had a club for just about every sport from fencing to aikido, and its other groups ranged from the songwriters’ society to the Islamic society. A bunch of people on my course were in MathSoc, a society for our mathematics students. My local university in Nottingham had a board game society last time I checked, as well as entering several teams into our county chess league. Not long ago, I gave a talk at the Disabled Students’ Society at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. (And in this era of rising autism awareness and acceptance, it wouldn’t surprise me if there are autistic societies popping up these days.)

So whatever your interest is, there’s probably a group for it. Somewhere at your university, there will probably be a room filled with people who you have some sort of common ground with. It doesn’t absolutely guarantee that you’ll make friends there, but it seriously increases your chances.

 

I experimented with a bunch of different groups during Freshers’ Week (the very first week at university, where the new students are welcomed and can sample everything for free), and the two I settled with were the Christian Union and the Taekwondo Society. I stuck with both of them for all three of my undergraduate years.

I was a Christian before I started university at eighteen, but at my church I was the only congregation member older than twelve and younger than forty. So being in a room full of Christians my own age was incredible, and it made the transition into university so much easier.

In contrast, I’d had zero interest in martial arts before university. But I was keen to learn, and found myself with a roomful of other students who had also never done taekwondo but were keen to learn. The interest was common ground enough, and a year later I was renting a house with four of them.

 

The opportunities are there to make valuable friendships if you look in the right places. I’ll be honest, I spent my first year of university in halls of residents (student dorms) among a group of people who, looking back, quite clearly disliked me. They made me feel devalued and alien, but I hung around them because I didn’t feel like I had a choice. Thankfully, as the year went on I drifted closer to the ‘common ground folk’ and further from those who just happened to live on the same corridor as me.

And wow, I’m glad I found these friends. I was the only autistic person among them (although I wouldn’t find out about my Asperger’s for several more years), but they understood me as a person, and they valued me.

Me and the rest of Team Newcastle, 2006. Winning the National Student Taekwondo Championships for the second year running. (I’m on the front row, second from the left, with our coach – a former British champion – lying in front of us.) Also pictured: all four of my housemates, a bunch of people from the Christian Union, and other people I’m still friends with today.

 

3. Do your research.

Ok, time for an academic tip rather than a social one. It’s pretty self-explanatory, and you probably don’t need me to tell you that better preparation yields better results. But in the case of starting further education, I can think of at least three reasons why research is a good idea.

 

Learning resources.

I started university (for the first time) in 2004. Back then, it was an entirely different world in terms of autism awareness. During my creative writing degree (which I graduated from in 2017), an autistic friend of mine had a support worker who would occasionally attend sessions with him. I don’t know specifically what this person did for him and it wasn’t appropriate for me to ask. But if my friend had started that degree in 2004, he most likely wouldn’t have had a support worker.

These days, colleges and universities may not be absolutely perfect in their autism provision, but the tide is turning in the right direction and they’re closer to getting it right than ever before. Dyslexic students now get 25% extra time in exams. People like my friend occasionally get staff support. And the University of Cambridge (among others) specifically employs an Asperger’s support worker, recognising their high proportion of academically capable autistic students.

Obviously I’m in no position to guarantee that autism-specific support exists at your college/university. But do some research and see what’s there. You may thank yourself later.

 

Knowing your way around.

Ok… to be fair, this one’s pretty obvious.

But yes, having a mental map of the campus in your head will make things feel more comfortable once you’re there. In fact, their website may even have a virtual tour. (Some virtual tours are better than others, but at the very least there’ll be photos for reference.)

And if your daily travel involves roads, Google Street View may also be your friend.

 

Anxiety relief.

I’m fairly open about my anxiety issues, and how I try to handle them. And in my experience, the fear of unknown things tends to be worse than the fear of known things.

If you’re susceptible to anxiety yourself, doing your research will (if nothing else) alleviate fear of the unknown. It may not wipe out nervousness altogether, but it’s better to know what you’re actually nervous about, and help you put plans in place to address it.

 

4. Talk to the staff.

Ok, to a certain degree this is an extension of the previous point. Doing your research should ideally involve talking to the staff. It certainly did with me, and it certainly helped. Not least because the staff knew who I was before I started.

But I’m not just talking about preparing for university. This advice applies during your course too.

 

I must have been a pretty annoying student during the run-up to exams. (Or maybe I wasn’t, but that was my perception of myself at the time.) Why? Because when I came across something I didn’t understand, I knocked on the lecturers’ office doors and asked for guidance. I did this repeatedly, and unapologetically. Don’t get me wrong, I was always polite and appreciative of their time, but they all understood the importance of me preparing for my exams.

And besides, this was literally what they got paid for.

 

At my university, knocking on my lecturers’ doors was perfectly fine. Others may require you to book an appointment or have different preferred methods of communication. Learn what they are, and use them to find the support you need.

And if knocking on doors is something you feel anxious about, that’s understandable. I used to rehearse basically every sentence in my head before knocking (which helped, by the way). But anyone who works with students has a duty to be accommodating, and most will be accommodating to their students on moral principle anyway. If you feel an explanation of your anxiety would help them to understand you, there are certainly opportunities to do that too.

 

(Incidentally, I recently wrote a whole article on dealing with exam stress. Here it is, in case you find it useful.)

And finally…

 

5. This is an opportunity, not just a difficulty!

“The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

-Winston Churchill, apparently.

I know that half of the world’s decent quotes are attributed to either Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill or Mahatma Ghandi, but the internet seems to be pretty unanimous that this was actually from Churchill.

And if it’s a quote on the internet with a picture next to it, you know it’s true.

But either way, the quote is a valuable one. Like most big events in life, you can either approach college/university from a viewpoint of fear, seeing it as a problem to be overcome, or you can see it as a pathway to some amazing experiences with a nice degree and a career path at the end.

 

I look back at the person I was at 18, and the person I was when I was 21, and I recognise how much university helped me to grow. The experiences I got from it (good and bad) helped me to become the adult I am today. I didn’t use my mathematics degree for much in the end – I became a primary school teacher and taught multiplication tables to nine-year-olds – but the life experience was invaluable.

(Well, I say invaluable, but I’ve not started to pay off my student debts yet!)

 

Now we’re at the end of the article, I’ll admit that I cried two days into my university life. I just felt overwhelmed.

But before too long I had a group of friends, a healthy social life that was on my terms, and my studies were going well.

And right up until the post-2015 years of running Autistic Not Weird, those years were arguably the best of my life.

 

I won’t promise that your university years will be the best of yours. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But they are loaded with opportunities: academic opportunities, career-building opportunities, and opportunities to build yourself up as a whole person. And where difficulties exist, the opportunity is there to overcome them.

I did.

Any excuse to use this photo is a valid one.

 

I hope this article helps those on the autism spectrum who are about to start their journey into further education. I wish you all the best. And again, you’re more than welcome to join Autistic Not Weird’s Facebook community, or take a look at my advice videos on YouTube.

Finally, I’m aware that students aren’t exactly known for their masses of disposable income, but I usually reference my Patreon page at the end of my articles. Anyone reading this, student or not, is welcome to have a glance at the rewards available if you want to help me continue to write these articles for a living.

 

Take care,

Chris Bonnello / Captain Quirk

-  

Are you tired of characters with special needs being tokenised and based on stereotypes, or being the victims rather than the heroes? This novel may interest you!

Underdogs, a near-future dystopia novel where the heroes are teenagers with special needs, is soon to be released through Unbound Publishing. A character-driven war story which pitches twelve people against an army of millions, it balances intense action with a deeply developed neurodiverse cast.

Amazon.co.uk link for British readers
Book Depository link for overseas readers
Pre-order link for the already-commissioned sequel!


Chris Bonnello is a national and international autism speaker, available to lead talks and training sessions from the perspective of an autistic former teacher. For further information please click here (opens in new window).
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2 Responses

  1. tahrey

    Very yes.

    A couple others to add to the pile, though the first is more an expansion / breaking out of an existing sub-point:

    6/ Your institution almost certainly has a Disability and/or general Student Support department, if it’s a place of any kind of note. One that I worked at for several years which was small enough that I knew almost every other member of staff by name (rare given my terrible memory for names) and could walk between the two furthest corners of the campus in under five minutes had one that occupied an entire floor in one of the buildings. Another even smaller place (occupying just two connected tower blocks) still had one folded in to the general admin department (ie where you had to go to hand in work, or plead for extensions), and in fact the workplace had a couple of support workers seconded to that because it was the more likely place that struggling students would turn up in a tearful crisis.

    Find out where it is, and go talk to them, early doors. Make sure your specific needs are met and that you have someone you’ve already met on-staff that you can turn to if things get rough and you need help, or at least a little bit of leeway with deadlines. Don’t be embarrassed about going there, like you’re failing or leeching off the system or something. You’re entitled to it, your fees ARE STILL PAYING FOR IT even if you DON’T take advantage – the same as the library, or the gym, or the communal computer rooms, or the refectory, or the various social clubs – and it’s expected that a certain slice of the student community will require its services … disabled or otherwise. The “ordinary” folk still have crises that the support workers have to address; if you rock up with a diagnosis, then they’re DEFINITELY there for you.

    (And if you don’t … it’s still worth talking to them about your problems, even if it’s just the ones you had at school and fear may transition into higher education with you because you haven’t started first year classes yet. One of their primary jobs is screening and diagnosis. It’s what lay under my early route into the wider diagnostic system, even though I was delayed by some years from NOT knowing my alma mater had such a department until it was FAR too late, and only ended up going through the process thanks to a perceptive tutor at the tiny vocational college I went to after, and taking advantage of access to those services offered as a staff health benefit when working on the other side of the counter. If I’d known about it from day one of uni, and been involved, my degree would almost certainly have gone FAR better…)

    7/ This isn’t a sudden-death, no second chances thing. Hopefully it’s not painted as such any more like it was when I was at school. You don’t have to go straight into uni out of school, you can defer for a year … for a decade or more, if you like, and want to try other things first. There’s a wide range of courses out there and you don’t automatically have to go with what your best exam results were in, if you find your interest piqued by something else. If your results don’t quite jive with what they’re asking for, call them up and see if what you do have might still get you in; the grades may be transferrable, and if they’re struggling to fill places, they may relax the requirements a bit. Plus there’s always clearing. Or trying again next year.

    Hell, you don’t even have to stick with your existing A-Level and GCSE results, if struggling with an undiagnosed (or poorly treated) learning difficulty or mental health condition shat all over them – local community-college / adult night classes cover pretty much the entire array of school qualifications for people who were failed by the system and didn’t get them, or got poor grades first time round, or who have immigrated without any internationally recognised certificates, were institutionally excluded, etc.

    The same goes for being at uni itself. There are resits. You can repeat years if necessary. You can drop out and come back to it (or a different course altogether) later, possibly transferring what points you already earned, as a more mature and hopefully stabler and more rounded and financially secure student. I know a guy who ended up taking six years to get through a three year BSc, repeating one year twice and another once, because of outside difficulties and poor grades. He still got out the other end with a good degree, and has since used the career built on it to emigrate to Australia, who are quite picky about who they allow in. I rather wish I’d followed a similar track, but the horror of being stuck in the place for even longer, and the embarrassment I’d have felt in front of friends and family kept me plugging away despite everything falling apart – never mind the example of someone who showed that embarrassment is a worthless socially constructed emotion, and that getting out the other end of it with a higher grade than a mere Third trumps everything else along the way. No-one’s going to look at how long you took to get the certificate, just what’s written on it…

    And you don’t necessarily have to go into university and follow an academic course. For a lot of people with ASDs and particularly DSDs, it’s a very poor match. We have other options these days. I’m currently at the tail end of chasing places on Engineering Apprenticeship courses. This is one place age and previous experience may count against you (because they’re employer sponsored, so they may not want someone with a patchy work history, previous qualifications, or who will cost them more to employ at the national minimums – or, quietly, that has an admitted disability, much as both that, ageism and over-qualificationalism are completely illegal), as I’ve found over the past six months, but I’m still grateful for the opportunity existing and it’s a fantastic opportunity for school-leavers, and indeed anyone under the age of 24 in general (…as the highest tier of NMW kicks in at 25). You can get trained how to work on machines, or with electronics, or combine the two to make robots, actually designing and/or constructing things with your hands and doing something identifiably useful, and earn some kind of wage at the same time, with only the minimum of sitting in classrooms and doing written work. Much of the training is actual hands-on stuff, once you’ve broken past the basic theory and the safety briefings, and a lot of those will be blended anyway. And unless you go into management or make some kind of industry-redefining breakthrough, there’s also a minimum of standing in front of a huge crowd of your peers giving presentations…

    Don’t worry that it might put you in a crowd of people of different ages to you. I’m not. It’s something you’re led to dread throughout school, and it is 100% bullshit. Real life involves meeting and working with, and being friends with, people of all kinds of age differentials vs yourself. Just because the early part of your life involved sitting in classrooms with thirty others who are no more than 11 months and 30 days different in age, with an older person dictating to you, doesn’t mean anything for how the remaining 80% (with any luck) of it will go. Even the uni classes I went into at 18 had a range of ages represented, despite the majority also being 18~19. Vocational courses since have been even more diverse, if only because I was one of the older students. The Apprenticeships have me feeling very old, as a lot of the other applicants are young enough to be my own children, but at the same time, I’m not the extreme outlier; there are still people older than myself popping up. The year-repeating friend I mentioned? He was 30 when he first joined our year at uni. Nearer 35 when he graduated.

    There’s still plenty of time to screw up, change direction, start over. A typical modern life involves a lot of that, and real life in the 21st century is all about finding what you’re comfortable with doing, iteratively, and has a lot of do-overs and retries. And it encompasses doing so with a full spectrum of different people. We no longer have to settle for doing just what our parents did and sticking with the job you’re given at 15~16 years old and lumping it, and staying within a tight clique of the people we knew in our school classes. Go out, fuck up, learn from it, try again. This is the new normal. There’s no set path that you have to walk.

    Reply
    • tahrey

      Also, breaking down two days into your tenure? I’m impressed. I was in floods minutes after my mum drove away. I was just unbearably lost and didn’t have any idea what to do next, even in terms of unpacking. Everything I knew was just … gone. Maybe it’s a feature of the ‘sperg, being uncomfortable with change, but of course that wasn’t known about at the time, and I’d been seven years in the same school without any other major wrenches, other than my parents splitting up after my GCSEs, which I filed away into the “repress, do not open or pay any attention to” bottle in order to function at some kind of surface level to get through my A-levels (which, at the time, were all consuming, and presented as a one-shot do-not-fuck-this-up-or-your-life-is-ruined affair).

      But the home I lived in, familiar surroundings of my home town, almost everyone I had known both family and friends (I later found out that three guys from my school year were also at the same uni, but I was only really passingly familiar with any of them, and at all “friends” with one, who lived in an entirely different hall and was doing a different course, and only one of us had a mobile phone), nearby shops and entertainments, ability to travel, even internet connection (it was another two years before I could get onto the web without leaving the building and travelling a considerable distance in what was often terrible weather, and eighteen months before I got a WAP and email capable phone) or a reliable TV/radio signal… all gone. (Bangor was a complete hole for all kinds of connectivity, and far from a sun-worshipper’s paradise. The main available pastime was getting drunk.)

      Emotional Rug -> [whippo]

      Luckily another new inmate either heard my sobs, or was just getting *everyone* out, and banged on my door, demanding attendance at a get-to-know-you in the campus bar. An incredible young woman; I’d have probably ended up asking her out at some point if she wasn’t both going through a lesbian phase and clearly out of what I thought was my league. Still sort of friends, went to her wedding last year. In fact, I basically had the inverse experience – most of my hallmates were exceptional people, and they constitute the majority of everyone I still know from uni… partly because everyone else was crap, other than the members of the diving club I joined, and a couple of guys from my third year hall (neither of whom were even on my floor… we met over a chat thing on the internal network, and the occasional game of Counterstrike, before finally meeting for drinks and, of all things, paintball).

      It did however seem that the support for struggling or disadvantaged students WAS there, even in the early aughts; you just had to know that it existed, where it was/how to access it, and to recognise that you needed it in the first place… the latter being a bit of a sticking point when you’d previously sailed through GCSEs without even touching the sides, and could attribute any shortcomings to crap teachers and/or the side effects of parental breakup. Clearly, any emotional or social issues were just from being a wuss, and any academic failures from not working hard enough, and the answer was greater exertion to try and overcome both, not realising you were actually already at full tilt fighting off other, undiagnosed issues that were actually the blockage to doing well at a higher level or when cast out into your early adult independence. With both pride and just plain ignorance making up the rest of it. Hence, not finding out about the student support services until I was two years and seven or eight months deep into a two year and nine month course.

      I mean, it must have been; my experience at a much, much smaller establishment ran from ’04 to ’06. In which time a perceptive tutor noticed the particular struggles I was having with certain types of work, despite otherwise demonstrating a good grasp of the subject and retention of the background knowledge, and arranged some Ed Psych tests. Off the back of which, I got that same 25% extra time, at least in the 2006 end of year exams if not the 2005 (can’t clearly remember). I doubt we’d have gone from major universities not having a clue in the 2000-2003 period, to a complete volte-face where even tiddler community colleges had a good grasp of it just a couple years later. This kind of provision takes time to set up; hell, it took my local job centre six months to arrange a Disability Employment Advisor after I started asking about the service… and seeing as I’m clearly not the only person they support, they might have been angling for one for some time before that.

      (And my time working for a midsize place that had a well-staffed support department began in 2008… some of the people I knew in there were already old hands when I joined)

      In other words, as already said, if they’re a uni of any kind of good standing, I’d be shocked and appalled if they DIDN’T have a sizeable student-and-disability support service. If they have even 1000 students (which is pretty small; there are enough secondary schools which can beat that), then they’ll likely have at least 10 with an Autistic Spectrum issue, maybe moreso if their subject matters are ones that disproportionately attract those on the spectrum. On top of which they’ll also be called on to support everything else – dyslexic spectrum issues, emotional and mental health troubles, things like MS, MD or MND, possibly even stuff like early onset parkinsons in older students, and the more classical sensory and physical disabilities (deafness or severe hearing impairment, blindness or severe vision impairment, paralysis or loss of limbs, loss or deformity of hands, etc), and even “softer” issues like struggling with debt or addiction. All together, it adds up pretty quickly; I’m not sure there was ever a time I was in the department I became familiar with and there was -nobody- else there other than me and the other staff. And that was still a relatively out-of-the-way dept that was always fighting a losing publicity battle at any open day or other internal expo like fresher’s week.

      A big uni that has a five-figure student cohort likely wouldn’t survive the PR disaster of not offering such services. They may not publicise them very well, but they’ll almost certainly be there. If they’re not … ping me. I’ll have words.

      Also, on the tutor contact front … open-door seems to be the case, more often than not. Even if it’s only for vested self-interest – no lecturer wants to see the grades of the classes they teach dragged down by students who are struggling, when they could invest a few minutes here and there to answer questions (that they can probably do in their sleep) asked by someone who isn’t quite getting some crucial element of the whole picture, after which it all falls into place. Or even to regularly help someone along who’s having a hard time with the class in general, but, damn it, you can see they’re trying and clearly wants to get to grips with it, otherwise they wouldn’t be asking, or even turning up to the lectures.

      The college I was working in up to a couple years ago widely practiced that, though you were encouraged to make an appointment if you could, because then you didn’t have the risk of either turning up at their office when they were out and busy elsewhere (for example, lecturing a different class), at the same time as someone else with an entirely different query (or, thirty minutes apart from someone else with the same question, when they could have organised things to see you both at once), or ending up disturbing a meeting or phone call / video conference they were having. They also offered a range of ways to get in contact, if the timing couldn’t be made to work, or you had a psychological issue (or self-safeguarding concern) with just randomly turning up and knocking on their door to ask in person.

      Email was a favourite, of course, as that lets you take your time over composing a question (or answer), allows inclusion of attachments or links, doesn’t need any scary eye-contact or physical presence, and can be completely divorced in terms of time – you can send your question at 7pm, or 1.30am, and they can pick it up and knock out responses to a dozen similar queries over lunch, possibly from their phone. But you could even still call them up on the actual phone, leave a note on their door / through the letterbox / via a pigeonhole, arrange a Skype video call, set up a group webinar with a few other similarly confused students, etc (hey, we’re in the future, we may as well make good on it). I think a few even offered facetime, so you could leverage the power of video calling and mobile internet on a tablet simultaneously, giving a face-to-face chat and visual demonstrations even if they weren’t in their office.

      (Point being, you don’t HAVE to go and knock on their door; that was largely necessary when I was at uni, because it was the quickest and most direct way, but even then the tutors had their personal emails and internal phone extensions listed, and once I was in third year I could access the former right from my halls room; hell, I could have called them up from day one on the basic £40 voice-and-text-only phone I took with me, but I never realised it was a possible or acceptable thing to do until some months into year three, after we found one of our tutors was actually quite amenable to *meeting students in the pub* and talking over their problems in a much more informal, neutral-ground setting, and giving out his extension and email for any further discussion that might be needed)

      And, well, if you’re having trouble … talk to SOMEONE on staff. Anyone. Most of the public-facing ones are as much in it for the warm glow of helping out the youth as the paltry paycheque, and will either already know where to direct you for better help, or know how to find out. They may well have an inside line to facilities you never imagined existed. Even if they’re not, modern safeguarding policy generally mandates that if a student comes to you with a problem, you HAVE to record and then escalate it SOMEHOW. And even back in the day, I at least found the submissions staff taking in essays and dissertations were in a position to issue short extensions if you came to them with a decent sob story and were suitably obsequious and/or distressed-looking…

      tl;dr – if you’re stuck, whatever the problem may be … ask someone about it. However you best feel comfortable. They can’t hurt you for it… all they can do is either say no, or ignore you, as the two worst things. You can’t be reported for asking for help, and it doesn’t affect your marks. Realising that you have to do that sometimes is part of the learning experience. And even if it’s seemingly not an academically related issue, or you think you’re asking the wrong person… there’ll still be *someone* who can advise you, and the staff are rather better connected with each other than you’d first think.

      (Heck, we had all kinds of things land in our lap in IT Services … finding the correct destination was never more than one or two hops away, if indeed we didn’t know the right *person*, by *name*, and have their extension on speed-dial. Sometimes it’d be staff from another department calling us, on the offchance we’d know the right route. And if we didn’t, there was always the all-knowing behemoth known as the general student admin department … or when all else failed, the main reception switchboard, font of all contact knowledge, and that every single staff member could reach by picking up the phone and dialling “0”)

      Reply

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