Preparing for college can be daunting for families, especially for students with learning differences. Be aware that the accommodations mandated through IEP or 504 Plans in high school will not continue in college. Therefore, I have several suggestions for those preparing for college.
1. Know Yourself
This is true for all students preparing for college admission and the college experience. You must know your strengths and weaknesses a student and be able to articulate them. College will offer many responsibilities, more independence, and more decisions will be required of you.
2. Advocate for Yourself
The college environment is quite different from high school, and you will need to be able to self-advocate. You need to understand and be able to articulate what your strengths as a student are, and where you need additional support. For example, do you need note takers, assistive technology, preferential seating, alternative testing, or other assistance? Your professors will not know about your learning differences unless you disclose to them.
3. Plan ahead
Accommodations for standardized testing must be applied for in advance. For juniors in high school planning to take the ACT in spring, it is wise to make the request for extended time testing in the fall. Most high school guidance counselors will make these requests for you, but it is wise to be aware of the necessary lead time. Additionally, you need to have a game plan and a time line.
4. The application process is challenging but manageable
Your LD testing must be current within the last 3 years; you must provide thorough documentation for the application process. It must be specific, must discuss what the differences are and clearly present possible accommodations for success. All colleges by law must provide accommodations for LD, but actual levels can certainly vary. Identifying or disclosing your learning differences is not necessarily required at the time of application. In general, colleges require the ACT or SAT, but there are many test-optional colleges to consider.
5. An LD college counselor can help
As coaches in college admissions, their job is to create structure and guidance through the process. For LD students, this can be especially helpful. Those who specialize in LD counseling have first-hand experience and knowledge of colleges and programs. They can provide the insight and help promote what makes you unique in this search process. They can promote your independence and recognition of your ability, not your disability.