Making the Transition to Higher Education
Making a smooth transition from secondary to postsecondary settings is difficult for any student, but for students with learning disabilities the changes can be particularly dramatic. College-bound students with learning disabilities must go through the same process as their non-learning disabled peers, but because of their learning disabilities they may face additional challenges that need to be addressed.
For example, many college-bound students with learning disabilities may not understand their individual disability, how it affects their learning, and how to describe it to others in plain language. Ironically, these students also may not recognize their learning strengths; years of academic struggle in high school may have lowered their self-concepts.
Secondly, many college-able students with learning disabilities lack the content preparation necessary to succeed in college or the learning strategies that will permit them to generalize their skills across settings. Without prerequisite courses (e.g., in mathematics, science, foreign language), students with learning disabilities may find their postsecondary options limited. Finally, given their learning disabilities, many high school students may need additional guidance in finding suitable college programs or schools with the range of LD support services compatible with their interests, abilities, and perceived needs.
Sara Cowen (1993, p. 40) observed that the "proliferation of services available in colleges and universities requires an extensive search, which requires knowledge of (1) how to read and evaluate the many guides available; (2) how to locate services in colleges not listed in the guides; and (3) how to evaluate the located services." This combination of factors underscores the need for systematic transition planning beginning early in the student's high school career and continuing into college.
Effective transition planning must be a student-centered activity that reflects the developmental and educational needs of the student at different grades and times. It also requires the collaborative effort of parents/guardians, secondary personnel, and postsecondary personnel (National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 1994).