Congratulations on your acceptances! You have worked hard, and you are now officially a college student. Take as much time as you want to celebrate and be very proud of yourself, but keep in mind that there is still more work to be done to ensure a good college experience, so let us start getting you ready for college!
Up until now, your K-12 education has been governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Most probably, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) was designed specifically for you to meet your needs and guarantee your success. College will be different – there will be no IEP specifically designed for you. Your college education will now be governed by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which guarantees access – a little different from success, right? What are the implications of such a shift for you? Simply put, you are now considered as an adult, which means you need to self-advocate and pursue all the resources that are available to you on campus. Stop by the Disability Services Office at your college as soon as you step foot on campus. Here are some pointers that will guide you in the right direction:
- Self-identify as a person with a learning difference.
- Provide up-to-date documentation of the learning difference.
- Request academic accommodations that will guarantee access to information and testing on an equal level with other students.
- Self-identify to professors as a person with a learning difference and hand in a copy of the Individual Student Profile prepared at the Disability Services Office.
- Remind professors of testing and assignment accommodations in a timely manner. Do not assume they will remember. Since most professors are very busy and have hundreds of students, there is a huge chance that they will forget.
- Accept ultimate responsibility for your own success. Attend classes regularly, study hard, complete assignments on time, be present for tests, maintain regular communication with your professors, academic advisor, and any other offices to ensure a good academic record.
- Do not hesitate to reach out to the Disability Services Office at any time. They are there to help you out every step of the way. It is their job to serve your needs, so utilize them.
After you follow all these recommended steps, you might find that the level of accommodations you have received does not compare to what you were expecting or hoping for. Although colleges are required to provide reasonable accommodations to support students in learning, they differ in terms of the levels of support they provide. If you have already built your college list around the spectrum of assistance that colleges provide, then you should already know what to expect. If not, now would be a good time to learn about them. In a nutshell, what you need to know is that there are two levels of support in college: services and programs. What are the differences? Let us dig in!
Services provided by a college range from minimal to moderate; thus, they do not require a fee. Such services might include basic accommodations, distraction-reduced environments, peer and/or professional tutors, and Organizational and Study Skills assistance, initiated by the student. Programs, on the other hand, are more comprehensive and serve to a broader of spectrum of students who might be diagnosed with learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or social communication disorders. Such programs provide structured social support through activities and mentoring, professional tutors, learning specialists, and Organizational Skills and Time Management Coaching. Since these programs require a full-time director and several staff members, they are fee-based. In either case, students are part of the college community although a separate housing or matched-roommates may be provided in some cases.
You have come this far! You have been accepted to college! Nothing can stand in your way… Whenever you need something, just ask for it. Be your own advocate! The more you are involved in your education, the more you will get out of it. Below are some good resources that I would highly recommend for further information on learning differences. Especially, the short YouTube video “Transitioning to College with a Disability” is very helpful in understanding the process of applying for accommodations in college. As always, at EdMission Possible we are here for you if you have any questions. Have fun in college!
Burcak Deniz Cakir, M.A., M.B.A.
Founder and President
Learning Differences Resources
“IDEA vs. Section 504/ADA”. https://eosc.edu/sites/www/Uploads/files/Downloads/IDEA%20vs%20ADA.pdf
“Rights and Responsibilities of College Students with Learning Disabilities (LD)”. https://ldaamerica.org/rights-and-responsibilities-of-college-students-with-learning-disabilities-ld/
“Spectrum of Support at the College Level”. (2016). Bass Educational Services. www.BassEducationalServices.com.
“Transitioning to College with a Disability”. YouTube Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb7jBbp-EXE.