3 Ways to Support Self-Advocacy

30 March 2021

As the parent of a Carleton College student, your support can help to foster your student’s self-advocacy skills, which are foundational to their career journey. Through self-advocacy skill development, students learn strategies to help them take charge of their lives, maximize their strengths, and transition to adulthood with the skills necessary to navigate their chosen career; such as the ability to communicate their needs and goals, to make decisions about the type of support needed to achieve them, and to find people who will support them in their journey.

Here are three tips to help your student build self-advocacy skills throughout college:

  1. Identify Dreams – As a parent, you often serve as your student’s “historian,” you can help them identify patterns and themes in performance, review feedback from others and make connections to the bigger picture of their identity as a learner. Help your student start to visualize their hopes and dreams for college and beyond by facilitating exploration by asking questions such as – 
    • What topics or courses have captivated you the most? 
    • If you could trade jobs with any 3 people, who would they be and why? What type of education and training would that require? 
    • What type of lifestyle would you like to have? What things are important to you, and why? 
  2. Be Resourceful & Problem Solve – When your student encounters a challenge, strive to ask open-ended questions that require thoughtful consideration. This will encourage your student to become a competent decision-maker and problem solver. For example, “I wonder if there’s an office on campus that supports students in this specific area?” Then, encourage your student to seek out support and to build their support system to find resources and information to address their identified dreams, goals, and challenges. Carleton offers student support services in everything from career education/skills to study skills, health/wellness, recreation, spirituality, and so much more. 
  3. Set Goals – Assist your student in learning how to develop and accomplish achievable goals. Practice small, short-term goals. Work with your student to develop a realistic plan of action that addresses their needs and goals, and lays out specific steps to take right now to make their hopes and dreams a reality. 

While letting go as your student becomes more independent may be scary at first, it can also be very rewarding, to see your student progress toward becoming a young adult, knowledgeable and capable of self-advocacy.