Tips for Talking with Professors

Communicating directly with your professors is an important part of a successful academic career at College of Charleston (CofC). Not only will one-on-one meetings help you to get the most out of the academic opportunities available to you, they also give you the chance to clearly convey your particular accommodation needs. 

Part of your role each semester as a student with a disability is to provide your Professor Notification Letter (PNL) to each professor if you anticpiate needing accommodations in a class. Your PNL details what accommodations you have been approved for by the Center for Disability Services/SNAP (CDS/SNAP). This is a excellent opportunity to establish a relationship with each professor early on, and is the time for you and the professor to work out the logistics of the academic accommodations you need. It is an interactive process. The more knowledgeable you are about your disability and your needs, the more you will be able to bring to this initial conversation.

Below you will find some suggestions for how to approach meetings with professors.

Know Yourself and How Your Disability Affects You

The more you know about your disability and its impact on your learning style, the better you can advocate for your needs. If you don't feel you know enough about your disability, don’t hesitate to use your resources: ask CDS/SNAP, gather information from the library or other research-based sources, or consult with your doctor or diagnostician. 

Professors should not inquire as to the nature of your disability. Should a professor inquire, you are not obligated to share that information. It is very helpful, however, for profesors to know how your disability affects you in the classroom. Do you have trouble concentrating? Is it hard to follow along while taking notes? Can you see the information presented in class? If a professor has this information, they may have a better idea of how to appropriately accommodate your disability.

Your Right to Academic Accommodations

At CofC, most professors are accustomed to and interested in working with students to appropriately accommodate disabilities. However, if you find that you need to educate a professor about disability law and CofC's procedures, here is a reminder of how things work:

  • You are entitled to receive academic accommodations through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure equitable access to educational programs and services. 
  • At CofC, CDS/SNAP determines what accommodations are appropriate by reviewing the information you submitted and by discussing your particular needs with you.
  • Meet with your professor(s) at the beginning of each semester to provide them with your PNL. Be ready to explain how and why an accommodation is appropriate. Having this knowledge and being able to articulate it to the professor adds to your credibility. If you don't know why you are receiving an accommodation, speak with a CDS/SNAP Administrator.

Choosing a Time to Meet

It is important that you meet with your professors at the beginning of each semester to ensure that accommodations are put in place. You will want to provide them with your Professor Notification Letter (PNL) before or during this meeting. Although it might seem convenient, the time immediately after class is usually not a good time to talk with a professor. This is often the time when everybody with a question approaches them; as a result, the professor's attention is divided. Also, many professors have other obligations directly after class, so they are unable to give you the time necessary to adequately discuss your needs. Most importantly, the environment directly after a class does not provide the privacy to ensure confidentiality. 

When discussing your accommodations or any other issue with a professor, you need their full attention. Your best option is to make an appointment with them - either in-person or virtually for that discussion.

Be Prepared for your Appointment

When you arrive at your scheduled meeting time, have an idea of what you want to discuss. You look (and are) more organized when you have questions written down and notes highlighted. If you are going over classroom accommodations, know what they are. If you are going over a graded test, have some idea of what went wrong and discuss ways for improvement. If you are having trouble understanding lecture material, present some options that will work for you.

The Talking to Professors script might be beneficial in preparing for each meeting with your professor to discuss your accommodation needs.

Concerns

If you meet with a professor who is unwilling to work with you on providing accommodations, or with whom other difficulties arise, contact CDS/SNAP immediately. While it is important that you develop self-advocacy skills, we are here to help you in that process.