Unless your entire school has fewer than a thousand students, it can be really easy to fall through the cracks. For example, I am one of maaaaybe 80 music grad students at my current institution. I got all my documentation in two days early. They still have not enrolled me in an important seminar, now two weeks later. The only way to get this resolved requires me to be my own advocate. I need to go out and take control of the situation, getting the right information to support my own education. Being your own advocate can be scary, because it requires some confrontation. However, it’s so worth it! Here’s how to advocate for yourself in four steps.
Have a plan. This applies to both the short and long term. For the long term, know what your goals and classes and requirements are, so you can make sure you’re working towards them in every larger decision you make. For the short term, in specific instances where you run into issues, know what you want to fix. Figure out the specific problem you’re having, and then figure out who can fix it for you. Once you know what’s going on, you will feel much more confident.
Value yourself. If you don’t think you’re worth helping, you aren’t going to be great at getting yourself helped. If you have trouble convincing yourself that your problems matter, think about what you’d tell your best friend. You wouldn’t tell them that they shouldn’t get help. You might even go get them help yourself. Treat yourself like your best friend – I promise you’re worth just as much as they are.
Be polite. When you actually get to the point of talking to another person to get an issue resolved, be polite. I have called a lot of financial institutions recently. I’m pretty sure one guy nearly cried when I thanked him for his help even though he couldn’t fix my problem. He forwarded all of my stuff to the appropriate people, with an urgent notice, because I was polite to him! Not only is it just a kind thing to do, it’s also more effective to be nice to the people who can help you.
Be persistent. Being polite doesn’t mean allowing people to brush you off, however. You need to keep going after solutions until you resolve your problem. You deserve to get the education you want, the work environment you need, or whatever else drives you to advocate for yourself. Persistence will get you further than almost anything else on this planet.
Self-advocacy can feel scary, but it is important to learn. You got this!