College is very different than high school; once you arrive on campus, you will need to learn to be your own advocate. Don’t be intimidated--you’re going to develop an incredibly valuable skill!

Requesting student services for learning differences

While many schools offer support to students with learning disabilities, you will only receive a service if you specifically request it. Before you arrive on campus, work with your parents, high school teachers, and counselors (and, if necessary, health professionals like doctors and psychiatrists) to assess your learning style and needs. It will be helpful to know how you learn best and strategies that help you succeed. You should also be aware of the circumstances in which you do not learn well. You will also need documentation of any official diagnosis.

One note: Different schools offer different levels of learning disability services, from basic accommodations all the way up to extensive programs run by several staff members. Ask before you apply! Our book The K&W Guide To Colleges for Students With Learning Differences is a great resource for services, admissions, and support at 338 schools.

Get the Help You Need

  • Before classes start, find the Office of Disability Services (ODS) and let them know that you have a learning disability. They will request documents that support your claim. It's a good idea to inquire in advance to find out what documents are required; some colleges even offer their own assessments. (Even if you've self–identified during the application process, you should still visit the ODS to check in when you arrive on campus.
  • Your college may ask you to notify professors and request accommodations from them yourself. This is a very different procedure than the one you encountered in high school, when teachers and administrators worked to address your needs without much direction from you.
  • If you choose not to request help, and then struggle in your classes, you won't be able to go back and re-take a test or re-write a paper. You'll have to live with your grades, at least until the next semester.

Know Your Rights

  • Colleges are not required to provide you with special programs that meet your educational needs. They aren't obligated to provide classes or tests specifically tailored to your learning disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, however, colleges are required to ensure that you have equal access to existing programs and services. So if your LD prevents you from participating fully, you have the right to request help. The college must provide assistance with existing classes and tests-the same ones everyone else is taking.
  • Depending on the school, services offered to LD students can include tutors, writing programs, assistance with registration and enrollment, specially equipped computer laboratories, modifications to exam procedures or course loads, the use of note–takers and training on learning techniques and strategies.
  • Your college can choose the kind of assistance it will provide, as long as it works. For example, if you ask ODS to provide you with a laptop computer and special note–taking software, the office may instead offer to pay another student to take notes for you.

Your College Wants You to Do Well

Many students believe that because they have to ask for services, their colleges don't actually want to provide them. This is not true. Your college admitted you, and they want you to succeed.

You will need to be more upfront and self–sufficient than you were in high school. But if you stand up for yourself and communicate clearly, you're likely to get all the support you need.

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