Practicing self-advocacy as an online learner

March 22, 2021

There’s a lot you may be thinking and feeling when you decide to earn your degree online. Your initial emotions may be a mix of excitement and uncertainty—but something you may not be thinking about is your self-advocacy skills. Self-advocacy is when you represent yourself and your needs to others. It applies to anyone who wants to ensure they can articulate their concerns to access needed resources.

Although the Alamo Colleges strives to anticipate each student’s needs, there may come a time when you have questions that will require you to make a phone call, send an email, or otherwise communicate with a classmate, instructor, or staff member at your college. Depending on the issue, you may need to activate your self-advocacy skills. When you learn how to be a good self-advocate, you gain confidence while making the most of your online educational experience.


Surprisingly, self-advocacy begins with setting your personal schedule. This means putting yourself—and your education—first. You will need to determine how much time and energy your coursework will require and then create boundaries around this time. While specific chunks of time, like work schedules and established childcare routines, may not be negotiable, you would be surprised by the amount of time spent on non-critical activities. COVID-appropriate family outings, date nights, and weekend excursions might need to be reduced so you have the time you need to engage in your course fully.

Additionally, there may be people in your life who expect you to maintain your “old” schedule. They may even try to make you feel selfish for prioritizing your education. If it can be helped, don’t let them! In the end, earning a degree is a short process compared to the lifelong benefits you will receive. Setting reasonable and manageable boundaries around your time is a healthy and responsible choice. It is the first self-advocacy step that will be most critical to your academic success.


Another side of self-advocacy is learning to identify and access existing reliable support systems within the Alamo Colleges. Once enrolled, you will probably need to make several decisions that require you to seek guidance from an expert source. While it may be tempting to rely on friends or Google for information, it’s essential to take advantage of the support network at your specific college. Reach out to the subject matter experts—the faculty and staff at your college—who know the most about a particular topic. For instance, it is very common to have questions about your degree plan, so reach out to your advisor for one-on-one guidance.

Remember that the Alamo Colleges is equipped to assist you in broader ways. For example, if you are struggling with food security or mental health, use your college as a resource by contacting an Advocacy Center. Advocacy Centers are staffed with individuals who are knowledgeable about where and how to get you the assistance you need. By going directly to a source of knowledge, you are ensuring that you receive the most accurate information and assistance possible.


Finally, be willing to ask questions in each of your courses. If you still have questions after reviewing the syllabus or other course documents, don’t hesitate to reach out and clarify with your instructor. Your questions are not a bother, and they do not signify anything negative about your comprehension or intelligence. Instead, they show you are taking your education seriously, you are assuming appropriate responsibility for your own success, and you are striving to perform well in the class. Yes, asking questions is self-advocacy. The more you practice, the better you become.

Be proud of your decision to enroll and trust the Alamo Colleges to support you throughout your academic journey. Empower yourself by practicing self-advocacy as often as you can. Remember, the faculty and staff at all five Alamo Colleges are always willing to provide assistance and information to make your online learning experience smooth and effective.

For more information

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Enrollment Coaches are here to help you get started with the application process and to guide you through registration for fully online courses this upcoming semester. We can also connect you to an advisor, as well as refer you to services available to online students.

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About AlamoONLINE

AlamoONLINE represents the range of opportunities for students pursuing degrees, certificates, or other offerings delivered 100% online from Northeast Lakeview College, Northwest Vista College, Palo Alto College, San Antonio College, and St. Philip’s College.

At our Alamo Colleges, a 100% online degree, certificate, other offering, or Transfer Advising Guide (TAG) has all courses offered fully online and does not require students to come on campus or to an external site except for required proctored exams or to participate in a clinical, internship, cooperative education, or practicum site.