Published: Sept. 25, 2020 By

Learning how to advocate for yourself, seeking out resources and being part of new experiences can help you grow and succeed at CU. While this is especially prevalent in the university setting, it is also an important skill to develop and practice throughout your life. 

Understanding the value of, and being able to, self-advocate will allow you to create better outcomes for yourself and more easily overcome challenges. Self-advocacy combines a variety of skills, such as confidence, resource knowledge, communication and collaboration. The best three tools needed for successful self advocacy are: knowing yourself, knowing what you need and knowing how to get what you want. Here is how they work.  

Knowing yourself 

Be confident in yourself and recognize what you need in order to succeed, whether that be in a class, in achieving a goal or in life in general. Most of all, know everyone is unique, and there is no “wrong” way to be yourself. 

If your learning style doesn’t match your instructor’s teaching style, that’s OK! You are not wrong and you can self-advocate to get what you need to be successful. 

Here are some self-reflection questions to get to know yourself better: 

  • What do you need help with?
  • How do you learn?
  • What are your goals? 
  • What does success look like to you? 
  • What do you need in order to achieve your ideal success? 

Answering these questions can help you find clarity and seek out the appropriate resources to find solutions. 

Knowing what you need

After exploring who you are, your goals and what works best for you, the next step is to address what you need in order to achieve these goals. 

Imagine you have built a train car and your end goal is to get to a specific destination. While your car is complete and ready to go, you do not have a track. What do you need to do in order to complete the track and reach your destination? Examples of what you might need in order to reach your goal: 

  • Do you need to talk to your professor or attend office hours? 
  • Is there a resource that can help you? 
  • Do you need help in time management? 
  • Do you need a tutor? 

Try to think about the tools or resources that can help you achieve your goal. Once you know what you need, go out and do research to see which source can best help you. Be confident and know that you are the only one who truly knows what you need. 

Knowing how to get what you need

Now that you have thought about who you are, what your goals are and what you need in order to achieve these goals, it’s time to take action. Here are some ways you can begin:

  • Who do you need to reach out to? For example: If you are having difficulty understanding your professor’s teaching style, you should reach out to the professor, if that is something you believe will help you. You may need to make an appointment during office hours to get help. 
  • How are you going to reach out? Are you going to call? Email? Schedule an appointment online? Every resource has different methods of communication. 
  • Plan it out. In thinking about how to get what you need, planning the steps to get it can help reduce the stress and anxiety you may feel surrounding self-advocacy. Talking to your advisor or an academic coach can be helpful in aiding with the “knowing what you need” and “how to get what you need” phases, and can be a great place to find out which resources can best help you achieve your goals. 
  • Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone to get help in finding resources, tools or other ways to succeed—this is self-advocacy in and of itself!

Academic resources

Resources for managing stress

  • Counseling and Psychiatric Services: CAPS offers telehealth (virtual) counseling appointments for undergrad and graduate students. New students or students who have not been seen in the past year should make an appointment through their MyCUHealth portal. Current students can call 303-492-2277 or connect with their provider to make an appointment.
  • Office of Victim Assistance: OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short term counseling services to University of Colorado Boulder students, graduate students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life disruptive event.
  • Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance: OIEC implements and enforces three university policies for students, staff, faculty, volunteers, and affiliates: Discrimination and Harassment; Sexual Misconduct, Intimate Partner Violence and Stalking; and Conflict of Interest in Cases of Amorous Relationships.