Dear LD Kid Headed to College

by Georgann Mire


College is scary for everyone but especially for kids with learning disabilities.  You’ve probably heard all your lives about how important college is for your future and also how hard it will be – especially for you.  I’ve had a lot of experience in higher education because I was a nontraditional student who didn’t graduate until I was 50 (yikes!).  After I graduated,  I worked for 15 years in Disability Services at Baton Rouge Community College and I’ve tutored a lot of LD kids so I’m kind of an expert.   I agree that college is important and can be hard but I bet you can handle it if you work hard and know how to get help.  I can tell you how to decrease the difficulty – utilize your accommodations and free services.  Here are some tips to help. 

  1. College is not so hard when you take advantage of your accommodations which are your civil right dictated by the American’s with Disabilities Act.  This legislation was enacted to level the playing field for people with disabilities.  It ensures that everyone has access to higher education through accommodations.  Please don’t try to do it “on your own” and wait until you are in trouble to start accommodations.  Your accommodations are your civil right and many people worked hard and sacrificed to enact the American’s with Disabilities Act so you could have all the tools you need for success. 
  2. Try out different accommodations in high school so you’ll know which accommodations are helpful for you.  Be prepared to share this information with your disability services counselor. 
  3. Forget about all the problems you had with accommodations in K-12.  Colleges want you to use your accommodations because then you’ll graduate sooner which makes them look better.  Don’t be nervous about asking for accommodations but be sure to be calm and polite and back up your requests with documentation. 
  1. The services provided in college are very different from high school.  In high school your assignments might be modified to help you be successful.  In college, your assignments and tests must be the same as everyone else’s but you can qualify for reasonable accommodations which are individual to you and derived from your documentation.   
  2. Some typical accommodations for LD students are notetaking, extended time for tests, distraction reduced environment for testing, scribe and reader.  Accommodations are individualized and based on your documentation and must be reasonable. 
  3. Also, forget about feeling embarrassed about using your accommodations.  Unless you tell somebody, they will never know.  Also, nobody cares.  If you got teased in high school because you needed accommodations, those days are over.    
  4. During your senior year of high school, familiarize yourself with documentation requirements found on the college website under Disability Services (BRCC has forms for doctors to fill out to make it easier https://www.mybrcc.edu/disability_services/forms.php). 
  5. Send your documentation to Disability Services about a month before school starts so your accommodations can start on the first day of school.  Don’t wait until you experience problems because accommodations are not retroactive.   
  1. Unlike high school.  College students must advocate for themselves.  Nobody is going to contact you to offer accommodations – you must ask for them and provide appropriate documentation from your doctor. 
  2. Remember that your disability services counselor wants you to be a success.  Let him/her know which accommodations helped you in the past and why.  Then ya’ll can work together to come up with accommodations that are appropriate in the college setting. 
  3. Once school starts, be sure to let your counselor know if you have any problems as soon as possible so ya’ll can come up with a plan to achieve academic success.  They can help you learn how to advocate for yourself with instructors and help you troubleshoot problems and issues. 
  4. Your diagnosis is confidential and instructors will not know the nature of your disability.  However, you are free to share your diagnosis if you think it would help your instructor understand your challenges.  But it’s your call. 
  1.  It’s important to choose a major that reflects your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses.  Most colleges have a Career Center so students can meet with career counselors to explore different options.  Your accommodations will work better for you if you are taking appropriate courses for your skillset.  You can take some online assessments to help you pick a major at https://mybrcc.emsicc.com/?radius=&region=Baton%20Rouge%2C%20LA 
  2. Also, you might want to talk to the Career Services Counselor about careers that require training but don’t need a diploma.  Usually these careers require less time in school and pay better than some careers that require a college degree. 
  3. Most colleges provide free tutoring to their students.  At Baton Rouge Community College this resource is called the Academic Learning Center (https://www.mybrcc.edu/alc/ ). 
  4. Check out the resources posted on the Academic Learning Center website.  You’ll find lots of links to help you succeed.   
  5. When you are registering for classes make sure to think about when you can perform the best.  If you are on medication be sure to choose classes that meet when your medication is the most effective.  Don’t sign up for early morning classes if you think you will be up late.   
  1. You will be full time if you take 12 hours (generally each class counts for 3 hours).  You can take more classes but most LD students take 12 hours so they can be more successful. 
  2. You can usually add and drop classes during the first few days (check out the add/drop dates on the Academic Calendar) of school.  If you go to class (or log into an online class) the first week and you can tell you won’t be successful, drop that class and pick up another. 
  3.  Online classes require a lot of self-discipline and organization.  If you are challenged by these issues, don’t take an online class.  If you have to take an online class, then find someone (mom, friend, tutor) to help you stay on track and organized.  Your disability services counselor can also help coach you through these issues. 
  4. Find out when your instructors have office hours and visit them when you have any problems or email them.  If you have problems – they are much more likely to help students who have been taking advantage of office hours. 
  5. Never turn in a paper unless somebody else (friend, parent or instructor) has read it.   
  1. Look up the last day for withdrawing from classes on the college’s Academic Calendar and mark your calendar.  If you aren’t passing by that date, have a chat with your instructor to discuss withdrawing from the class and retaking it.  You will not get a refund, but you can save your grade point average (GPA). 
  2. Before withdrawing from a class, check with your Financial Aid counselor (if you are using Financial Aid) to be sure withdrawal does not affect your eligibility.  
  3. If you experience a medical emergency during the semester, let your instructors and Disability Services counselor know about your issues ASAP. 
  4. This might sound silly, but the most difficult task for college students is going to class.  Anyone who tells you that class attendance isn’t important is wrong.  People who go to class do much better than those who skip (even if they get notes later).  Also, instructors are much likely to help you if they know you’ve been coming to class. 
  5. Community colleges are a great place to start out in college.  The classes are small and the tuition is cheaper.   

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