9 Tips for Choosing a College When You Have a Learning Disability
May 1, 2018 is the final day for students to submit their acceptance letters into most four-year colleges and community colleges. Entering a college atmosphere can be frightening for students with learning differences (LD) and ADHD. With the final day for students to submit their acceptance letters fast approaching, it’s important for those with learning differences and ADHD to know these 10 helpful tidbits.
1. You are not alone.
As you enter into college, whether it’s a community college or a four-year university, know that you will not be the only student with a learning difference or ADHD. One in five people have a learning disability — that’s 20 percent of the school’s student body! Know that you are not alone, and be proud of your learning difference.
2. Know your school’s disability resource center director.
Before you decide on which school to attend, make an appointment with the school’s disability resource center director. Every four-year school and community college has a designated disability resource center which you should consider your home. By meeting with them, you can gauge if you will be able to succeed with your learning difference at the school.
3. Get to know your personal disability resource center advisor.
While you will have an academic advisor, a mentor who helps students decide on their overall academic goals for each major, you will also have a Disability Resource Center Advisor. Number one goal: get to know your Disability Advisor so that they will know you. Your Disability Advisor can help you receive numerous types of accommodations to help you succeed, in addition to helping you pick classes and teachers.
4. How many students does the disability resource center help?
Although you may know how many overall students are at the school, find out and know how many students the disability resource center helps. Find out the ratio between students and advisor. You want to ensure you will receive support from your disability advisor and not become another nameless face. The absolute worst scenario is if the disability advisor loses contact with you. To ensure success, find a disability advisor you can meet with on a regular basis. By meeting with a disability advisor regularly, you can find the comfort and support you may not typically find with an academic advisor. Know that you can receive one on one support.
5. Which classes best fit your learning style?
You know your learning style best. Learning differences can be language-based, math-based, and/or reading-based. Your academic advisor may recommend a general mixture of classes, such as a math class, science class, English class, and a social science class. But what if you have a language-based learning difference and struggle with writing papers and finishing short essay exams? Then perhaps taking an English course requiring multiple papers, along with a social science course requiring short essay exams and research papers, may not suit your learning style. Make sure the classes you choose for each semester ultimately set you up for success.
6. Which teachers best fit your learning style?
Many students utilize websites on which other students rate their professors to choose classes. In most cases, multiple teachers instruct the same course, but each teacher has their own unique teaching style. Students use websites such as RateMyProfessor.com in order to find the best professor at their school. For students with learning differences, these websites are great because you can find out if the professor relies heavily on oral lectures or note-based lectures, the amount of exams, reading, written homework such as papers, and the teacher’s accessibility outside the classroom. When you have a learning difference or ADHD, it’s best to know your professor’s teaching style. If you have a reading-based learning difference for example, you may want to stay away from professors who require numerous reading assignments. Once again, you can also utilize your disability resource center advisor who can help pick the best teacher to fit your own learning difference.
7. You can take a reduced course load.
While in high school, the average course load is six, maybe seven courses per semester; while in college though, six classes may be too much. Universities say in order to graduate within four years, a student must enroll in five classes per semester. But five classes can be quite a handful. Through the disability resource center, you can take a reduced course load of only three classes. When you have a learning difference or ADHD, sometimes a reduced course load is the route to success. But you’re not a full-time student when enrolled in only three courses, correct? Wrong. Through the disability resource center, you can be enrolled in three courses and still be classified as a full-time student.
8. You can access different types of accommodations.
Those with learning differences and ADHD may feel the stigma of needing to use accommodations for help in school. Let’s squash that stigma now. Accommodations work absolute wonders. Just as a person with poor vision requires glasses, or someone with a physical disability may require a wheelchair, those with learning differences need accommodations for help learning. Know the numerous accomodations out there for you to utilize through the Disability Resource Center, including extended time on tests, extended time on papers, in-class note takers, a Livescribe recording pen, speech-to-text computer software, alternative media for textbooks, audio books, accessible furniture, and more.
9. Is there a learning difference/ADHD community at the school?
Too often students entering into a college environment feel alone, as though they are the only student on the entire campus who learns differently. Before submitting your acceptance letter, find out about the school’s learning difference/ADHD community. For first year students, many schools have a program through the disability resource center pairing them with upperclassmen. Sometimes though, that is not a big enough community for students with learning differences/ADHD.
Know if the school has a club devoted to students with learning differences/ADHD. For example, Eye to Eye is a mentoring program pairing college students labeled with language-, reading-, and math-based learning differences with kids who have similar diagnoses. Through an art-based curriculum, the college students help teach kids self-efficacy, self-advocacy and metacognitive skills. “So many students with learning and attention issues find themselves living in self doubt, and it’s Eye to Eye’s welcoming community that allows for the student to experience what it feels like to not be alone. Being part of a family — a welcoming community — that you can’t find anywhere else is why people are drawn to Eye to Eye and, as we like to say, are ‘LD proud to be’,” reiterates Eye to Eye President Marcus Soutra. With 60 universities reaching coast to coast, Eye to Eye provides one of the nation’s largest Different Thinking Communities.
You are 1 in 5 with a learning difference and/or ADHD. Be proud of yourself!