As a college student with chronic illness, I have learned a lot about how to schedule college classes and how to create the best college schedule. Many of my friends come to me every semester with a list of their required classes and ask me to help them organize their classes in a way that prevents burnout or losing their mind between classes. Today, I will be sharing my college scheduling hacks for students with chronic illness to make sure they have the best college schedule each semester.
Pay attention to priority registration dates/times
At my college, students that have a file with the Office of Disability Services or that are enrolled in specialty programs can participate in priority registration dates/times in order to ensure they can register for the classes that best fit their schedule. I use this opportunity to make sure that I register for classes that I know I won’t be super tired for, or to make sure that I get a certain professor that I know will let me video chat into class if needed. It helps to look at class offerings before registration so that all I have to do is type in the class number and be done with it.
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Use an app like Coursicle to register for classes late
I changed my major about three weeks before classes began for the new semester, so many of the classes I needed for my new major were full. This wasn’t a problem though, because I used Coursicle to send me notifications if the class or classes I wanted had an open slot. I ended up getting all of the classes I wanted before the first day of class, because students are constantly changing classes or moving into a new section.
Sign up for professors that teach multiple sections
One of my favorite tricks is to sign up for professors that teach multiple sections of a class so that I can attend their other sections if I can’t attend my own. I always make sure to get permission before attending a different section, but all of my professors have been okay with this so far. This is especially helpful for when I have a doctor’s appointment or have to leave campus for some reason.
Take virtual classes
There is a running joke in my house that the only reason I passed my first semester at college was because I took so many virtual classes. This isn’t completely a joke either, as I had to miss a lot of class time for circumstances out of my control. I like taking virtual classes because it means that I can do my homework while lying in bed or listen to a lecture in my pajamas, which is something that would be less acceptable in a traditional class. I also tend to get better grades since I am in a more relaxing environment when taking tests and quizzes.
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Make sure you can eat or drink between classes
Once upon a time, I thought it would be smart to have my afternoon classes super close together without leaving time to eat or drink between classes. This led to my stomach growling frequently in class or feeling super lightheaded when walking to my next class. So, learn from my mistake, and make sure you have time to grab a quick snack, meal, or drink between classes to avoid feeling like garbage when trying to pay attention to a lecture.
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Ask staff members or advisors for professor recommendations
One of the things I like about college over high school is that professors and staff members are willing to be completely honest and transparent about other professors. This has been super helpful for avoiding bad professors, but has also helped me discover interesting classes and professors that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. For example, my advisor encouraged me to take a specific section of an English 101 class because they said the professor would be great about following my Disability Services file and be supportive if I had to miss class. I later found out that professor had chronic migraines like me, so it was a perfect match!
Talk to assistive technology specialists about class choices
In my opinion, assistive technology specialists tend to work more closely with professors and classroom materials than the Disability Services counselors. The assistive technology specialists at my college are more than willing to talk to me about the availability of accessible materials in different classes, and which professors are the most knowledgeable about accessibility. I was thrilled to learn my data science professors are proactive about accessibility and willing to work with me to make sure I get accessible materials for my classes.
Have a plan if you can’t attend class
Every semester, I seem to have a new health crisis, with some examples being appendicitis, a car accident, burst cysts, and too many others to list. At the beginning of the semester, I talk to my professors about attending class remotely and what I will do to stay on top of classwork in case I get behind. By having these plans set up in advance, my professors can easily have me attend class remotely or catch up on work within a reasonable amount of time.
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Be proactive whenever possible
Many of these plans work well because I am proactive about telling my professors about my Disability Services file and am transparent about how my chronic illness affects me. As a result, my professors find it easier to come up with reasonable accommodations and solutions for issues that may arise. It also means that they can ensure I don’t accidentally end up coming across a trigger during class that could make my illness worse, such as flashing lights.
I’m so grateful to have amazing professors that have helped me to be successful in the classroom and that have reminded me that my health comes before my schoolwork. I hope these college scheduling hacks for chronic illness can benefit other students as well!