I have taught mentally ill college students, given advice to mentally ill college students, and been one myself. Based on those experiences, here is a guide to not tanking your exam / your class / your degree while you’re having a meltdown. This is probably most applicable to college students at universities in the United States, but there’s generally applicable stuff in here too.
None of this is easy to do when things get rough, but many of these suggestions are minor time commitments that can make a huge difference.
1. Decide on your major goal
If you are clear on what you want, it will be easier to decide what to do while things are going south. If your major goal is to get a good education, get a good job, or go to graduate school, your top priority should be using relevant resources (including those related to mental illness). If your major goal is to avoid treating your mental illness (or using accommodations, extensions etc), evaluate what you are willing to sacrifice (grades, time, extracurricular activities, your job, future salary, etc) and plan what you will sacrifice when.
See the bottom of this entry for my opinionated take on this.
2. Know your available resources
If your school has a students with disabilities service, a counseling center, or a health services, and you are not already using them, look them up and find out what they offer.
3. Know your course policies
Take time out of your day to go over your syllabuses with a fine-tooth comb. You need to know your teachers’ policies about emergencies, grade appeals, accommodations, and extensions/make-ups. Plan to make use of these where they can help you.
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