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Students with Learning Disabilities and the College Search

The College Search for the Student with a Learning Disability

Students with learning disabilities (LD) come to the change from high school to college with a set of special and significant needs. Such a student and that student’s family need to understand the abilities, strengths and weaknesses in order to guide the transition with the best of planning by looking at various options, which are many and varied. If college is the path chosen, investigating post-secondary programs to find the right match is a critical. The crucial step in all of this is building self-insight, self-advocacy, and resourcefulness.

When to begin the college planning

The transition plans should be grounded in the student’s goals and vision for life as an adult, career interests, extracurricular and community activities, and the skills the student needs to progress toward personal, social, career and academic goals. The student should include preparation for proficiency tests and any required assessment needed for post-secondary academic work (ACT, SAT, etc.) as well as the development of self-determination and self-advocacy skills.

Lesley Miller, College Consulting, Inc.

Lesley Miller at Podium

Even for students who have faced extreme challenges academically in high school, a college education may very well be a possibility. Students can explore summer pre-college courses for high school students who have completed their junior or senior year. Additionally, students can take a college course the summer before they enroll to get to know the campus, learn how to use the library, and advance their study and time management strategies.

Understanding legal rights

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) disallows discrimination against students with disabilities in the college application process. When a student has been admitted, that student may request reasonable accommodations to allow for participation in courses, exams, and other activities. Colleges and universities have varying levels of disability support services; the student’s family should consider these variables in the college selection process.

Identifying the best characteristics of a college

Once the student’s strengths, learning needs, and level of support needed have been determined, the goal is to look at the characteristics of colleges that might be a good match for the student. Consider various types of colleges: two-year colleges, public community colleges, private junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as graduate and professional schools. Students with a learning disability can succeed in all types of schools, including the most prestigious.

Each student must determine the characteristics of colleges that will provide satisfaction and support individual success. Colleges that are using instructional techniques and electronic technology in a flexible way can increase the potential for success. When lecture notes or videos of presentations are available electronically and can be viewed multiple times, then students have natural supports built into a course.

Finding and comparing colleges

Like all students preparing to choose a college, students with a learning disability must identify colleges that appear to have the desired qualities and select several of them for further investigation. Then college visits, campus tours and conversations with professors or students are in order.College Admissions

Other factors should include the support services offered by candidate colleges and verification that the services advertised by the college will actually be available to the student.

Some of the strategies for becoming highly informed and prepared follow:

  • Participate in orientation programs.
  • Talk to other students. Other students (current and past) are a very good source of information about classes and professors.
  • Audit classes. It is possible to observe a class for a limited period of time to determine whether this is the right class. Students who audit a course are not responsible for exams or assignments.
  • Do not procrastinate. Plan ahead to begin gathering information about courses and professors.
  • Check the Internet. Most colleges and universities offer an increasing amount of information, including the course syllabus, textbook, objectives, readings, and assignments.
  • Meet the professor. Professors have scheduled office hours to answer questions about the course. Getting the textbooks and reading list ahead of time also allows students an opportunity to get a head start on the course.