25 Questions for Finding the Right College
Since 1978, the number of college freshmen with learning disabilities has increased ten-fold. Many colleges and universities claim to provide services and programs for these students, but these claims should be examined very carefully by the prospective student and his/her parents. The following questions should be considered in order to find the "best match" for the student, the post-secondary institution and the LD support services.
How do I choose the appropriate college for the student with a learning disability?
Here are some questions you should consider:
1. Does your son or daughter qualify for a learning support service college program?
2. Have his/her high school courses prepared the student to successfully compete in college?
3. Are there special admission procedures?
4. Are there additional fees for the LD support services program?
5. What kind of college (small or large) and location (urban or rural) would provide the best opportunity for academic success?
6. Is the learning support services program "specifically" directed toward the LD student? Are there services available to handicapped students and the general student body?
7. How many students are enrolled in the program and what is the proportion of LD students to the general student population?
8. When was the program started?
9. How long have the personnel been in the program?
10. Does the program have faculty and administrative support?
11. Who does the academic advising for the LD student?
12. Are the academic advisors (those persons who help the student select courses) familiar with the goals and procedures of the learning support services program and the general characteristics and needs of the LD student in particular?
13. Does the institution have course waivers, e.g., foreign language requirements?
14. Are special courses required of LD students? Do they carry college credits? Can these credits be used toward graduation?
15. Are there remedial or developmental courses available?
16. Are students in this program required to remain in the program throughout college?
17. Is counseling available and what kind, e.g., personal, academic and career, group or individual, and is it required or optional?
18. Is there assistance available for improving social/interpersonal skills?
19. Are there support groups available for the LD student?
20. What kind of tutoring is available to the student?
21. Are all textbooks available on tape?
22. What kind of additional resources are available, e.g., word processors, tape recorders, etc.23. Are students permitted to tape lectures?
24. Is there a summer "pre-college" session available for entering freshmen?
25. Should the student visit more than one college before making a decision?
All contents © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 Schwab Foundation for Learning All Rights Reserved.
How to Choose a College with Support for Students with Learning Disabilities
LD Program Goals and Objectives
Are goals and objectives to...
What services are provided?
Quality of Services Provided
Adapted from material by Pamela Adelman, Ph.D., Director, Learning Opportunities Program, Barat College, Lake Forest, IL
Questions to Ask When Visiting a College
Here are some questions students and parents should ask when visiting a college/university:
Questions to Ask a Current User of the College's Support Services:
Start your college search process early. If your student is going to disclose his/her LD and ask for accommodations, note the date of their last educational evaluation and check that against what the colleges consider "dated" testing--don't wait until the senior year of high school to do this.
Many high school guidance offices are aware that students with documented learning disabilities may be eligible for special accommodations for the SAT, but may not be aware that this also holds true for the PSAT.
Most all the LD college students I've spoken with have said that the most important skills to develop in high school are: note-taking, self-advocacy, time management, written expression with a computer. They urge high school students to develop these skills early on--make sure they are reflected in your student's IEP or Education Plan in high school. Students should be actively involved in the development of their IEP--if they haven't been, now is the time to ask that they be allowed to participate.
If your student was granted a waiver of the foreign language requirement in high school, make sure they take something in its place. Consider creative substitutes, such as sign language. This type of proactivity will demonstrate your student's willingness to work hard and is something they can boast about in the application process.
If an essay is required as part of the application process, encourage your student to consider discussing their journey to coping with and understanding their learning disability--this may help the admissions committee see that your student is comfortable with who they are and that they are able to self-advocate.
Once you and your student have narrowed down the college list, request an interview with admissions staff if at all possible, even if they are not required. For students with LDs, the interview can be the factor that tips the balance in favor of acceptance.
Take advantage of any early orientation or registration programs offered during the summer before your student's freshman year--it's a great way to get acclimated early on. Take photographs and/or a video and use those at home to review campus landmarks and important buildings (student center, dorms, student support services, library, dining hall).
In the few summer weeks before classes begin, encourage your student to practice setting their alarm and getting up early at home and to spend some time reading and writing each day. If you've purchased technology for college, open it up, plug it in, and urge your student to become familiar with it before their first day of classes.
If your student plans to tape class lectures, encourage them to simultaneously take as many of their own notes as possible, using the tape to fill in what they didn't get in class. Remind them to do this daily--otherwise the tapes will pile up quickly and overwhelm them.
Finally, if the college offers a support/discussion group for LD students, urge your student to go. This is a forum in which your student can vent their frustrations to people who know and understand what they are struggling with and learn some new compensatory strategies, as well as which faculty are supportive.
Adapted from "Choosing a College for Students with Learning Disabilities" by Will Small, available online at http://www.ldresources.com/collegechoice.html.