6 phrases to use when asking your professor for support

Do you need extra support or accommodations from a college professor, but don’t know how to ask? I’ve been there. I have dyscalculia, a math learning disability. And it’s taken me a long time to figure out what to say and when to say it.

It can be intimidating to ask about accommodations — like extra time on an assignment. But getting support in college is worth it. So, I created this list of phrases you can use.

1. “Can we have a conversation about the accommodations I need for your class?”

You need to ask for support to get it. Starting a new class can be a busy time, but it’s the perfect opportunity to meet with your professor. 

Ask to meet before or after class, or during office hours. Sending an email is also a good way to reach out if you feel anxious about asking in person.

2. “Here’s an info sheet about my learning disability in case you need more information.”

When I meet with my professors, I give them a copy of an info sheet that I made. It describes what my disability is and some of the areas that I struggle in.

Taking the extra step to provide your professors with an info sheet shows that you’re ready to advocate for yourself. It also helps professors understand more about you and why you need support. (Check out fact sheets about ADHD and dyslexia you can use.)

3. “Can you help me understand this better or explain it in a different way?”

The way that professors teach a lesson or describe an assignment can be confusing. Anytime this happens to me, I ask my professor to explain it in another way.

Going to your professors’ office hours can be a chance to learn at a more comfortable pace. It may take several explanations, but asking for help and guidance is always a good idea.

4. “Can we create a signal to let me know when you’ll call on me in class?”

I’ve always had anxiety when it comes to answering questions in class, or having to explain my work. It’s something that I’m still actively working on.

Work with your professor to create a signal for when you’ll be called on, like a hand gesture. Knowing when I’ll be called on lessens my anxiety, helps me focus, and increases my confidence when it comes to speaking up.

5. “Can I have more time to work on this?”

Having some extra time to work on an assignment can make all the difference. It may not always be an option when it comes to group projects or assignments with hard deadlines. However, it never hurts to ask your professor about getting a deadline extended.

6. “I think having another person help me explain what I need will help us come to an understanding. Can we set up a meeting with my disability advisor?”

Sometimes, a professor may not be willing to provide the support or accommodations that you’re asking for. What then?

You don’t have to do this alone. Set up a meeting between the school’s disability access consultant and your professor. This meeting can start a conversation about your needs and address any concerns the professor may have. Attending a meeting like this may be intimidating, but it will give you a chance to feel supported and speak up. 


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