It’s a common story – you do well in school and don’t have too many problems but you get to University and suddenly your grades slump. In some cases it could be a sign that you have a learning difficulty. This could be dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia (among others). Having a learning difficulty is nothing to do with intelligence; it simply means that you have more difficulties in one or more areas of your learning than other people might have. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve the things you want to, for example, becoming a nurse.
I discovered my learning difficulties in the 2nd year of my nursing course. I developed strategies to aid my work and got the help I needed – I’ve been there, done that and have some recommendations for students with similar difficulties.
1. Don’t leave things until the last minute.
Now, I have to admit – I’m not great at this first one, but some of my best work was produced when I did start early. This might have been in small doses, reading around the subject or conducting and saving literature searches for later review – but it helped and was reflected in my feedback.
2. Don’t be embarrassed
There is no need to be embarrassed by having a learning difficulty; one university found that 14% of their student nurses had a formally diagnosed learning difficulty (RCN 2010). If you talk about it you are more likely to get help and to become the best nurse you can be. Your learning could benefit from telling your lecturers, mentors and personal tutor of your specific learning needs.
3. Do find out what your University can offer
Most university websites will have a page dedicated to educational support. If it’s not easy to find the information simply ask a lecturer or your personal tutor who can point you in the right direction. There are other resources you could use too – like this one from the RCN.
4. Do find what works for you
This might take some time – my most effective strategy (using matrixes when reading research papers) I didn’t discover until my final year of my undergraduate course. But it’s good to keep trying new things – what works for others might not work for you, and likewise what used to work for you might not a few years down the line.
5. Don’t give up
It’s easy to think about giving up on a university education when it takes you twice as long as your classmates to complete a piece of work or you get a lower grade than you were expecting. But with that little bit of extra work you could have a long and rewarding career!
If anyone else has any more tips please comment – it’s good to discuss each other’s strategies so we can all get new ideas!