High school is almost over and that college letter of acceptance has just arrived! For a student with a learning disability, opening that acceptance letter is validation of hard work; however, with the letter comes concern. College is a big step. While it can open so many doors, it can also be difficult. For a student with learning disabilities, college doesn’t have to be painful. Actually, a successful college life can be easy with serious planning and commitment. Here are some tips that will help students with learning disabilities have a better college experience:
Participate in Pre-College Programs
Many colleges have programs and supports geared to students who may have academic challenges. Students with learning disabilities would benefit from attending these college life preparatory programs. Programs range from one month to two months in duration, and are very structured. Students are exposed to college course work, dorm living, and administrative programs. A student learns about academic supports, is giving instruction on time management, and given the opportunity to learn the campus. Attending these programs helps to take away some of the first semester jitters many college students have.
Contact Office for Students with Disabilitiesor Academic Resource Centers
Most campuses now have departments or centers that offer assistance to students with disabilities. These departments generally oversea structured academic support programs and offer guidance to those students with special academic needs.
A student will want to visit this office and learn about services and resources offered. A student will also want to bring medical and academic records which document their specific learning disability. This Department will serve as a gatekeeper and advocate for your academic modifications and supports.
Plan Manageable Courses
One of the biggest and most exciting things you will do, besides attending your first party, will be to set your academic schedule. When meeting with your advisor, let them know your interests, concerns and academic needs. In setting a schedule, make sure that the schedule is not overwhelming and allows for time to complete assignments and study. Add courses of interest with those that are required for your particular major. Be mindful to not have more than one difficult class per term or semester. Consider this. If a student has a learning disability that relates to abstract concepts or calculations, mathematics is generally difficult. This student should not challenge themselves with an upper level math course, but may elect to take a preparatory math course instead. This makes the schedule more manageable and not stressful.
Set Up Time Management Calendar
Structure and good time management are the keys to success for a student with a learning disability. College is the first time a student is completely responsible for their time. With all this freedom, a student may disregard practices that made him or her successful through high school. Early in the semester, a detailed time management system needs to be put into action.
The student’s time management system should take into account class schedule, work, study, and holidays. If a student prefers paper journals and planners, class details should be added to a calendar organizer. If the student lives online, most e-mail services have personal online calendar options. Using the online calendar, add entries for assignments, projects, classes and even exams. The time management system will send reminders/ticklers that can help keep a student on task.
Meet with Your Professors
Professors teach, but also want you to learn. Early in your academic term or semester, schedule a meeting with your professors. Let them know of your challenges and ask for advice on how to be successful in their classes. Once the advice is given, follow it. If the professors suggest extra studying, reading other resources, or attending review sessions, add those things to your schedule/time management system.
Attend study and tutoring sessions
Everyone needs help sometimes, especially in college. Study sessions and tutors are in place on most campuses to aid students, who may not understand the basic course material. Attending study sessions, examination reviews and meeting with a tutor can help you grasp the material better. Repetition helps with retention.
College is not only about academics. The social experiences of college are also incredibly rewarding. In your weekly schedule set aside opportunities to spend time with friends, go to a movie, or just relax. After all, hard work should be rewarded. Also, taking planned breaks help a student segment work! Study breaks are also great stress busters.
College years can be some of the most exciting and freeing times of a person’s life! In college, futures are planned, love is found, and identities are formed; however, if you are a student with learning disabilities, college can seem overwhelming. Instead of exploring interests, you could spend most of your time just trying to keep up.
However, if a student gets prepared, openly communicates with professors, seeks help when needed, and understands the importance of time management, college will be one of the best times of his or her life.
There are a number of useful books for college students with learning disabilities, such as Simpson adn Spencer’s book, College Success for Students wtih Learning Disabilities or Dr. Henry Reiff’s Self Advocacy Skills for Students With Learning Disabilities: Making It Happen in College and Beyond. There are additional sources that can be found on the Internet as well. Check out the following websites for more guidance: