With more than 4,000 public, private, and for-profit colleges and universities in the United States, searching for the “right college” can be time-consuming, stressful, and often chaotic. If you’re a student who happens to learn differently, this task can seem downright overwhelming. Yet, it actually can be a very rewarding experience. Remember, the college search process is a journey of self-discovery. The possibilities available to you are numerous and exciting if you ask yourself the right questions and take the correct steps.
How do you make the right college match? We all know that every student has individual priorities and needs, hopes, and dreams. But as a student with a learning disability, you have more criteria to consider beyond geography, program of study, and size of school. You have to also look at how a college accommodates your particular learning style. Should you consider a college that is dedicated exclusively to students with learning disabilities and/or focuses on specific types of learning challenges (such as dyslexia, ADHD, or ASD)? Or would you be better served by a traditional college that offers LD accommodations at the comprehensive, structured, or add-on services level? Here are 7 questions every student with a learning disability needs to ask when applying to colleges:
1) Understanding: Do you know your LD and how it affects your ability to learn?
2) Self-Awareness: Can you describe the services you received in high school and determine what level of support you will need in college?
3) Advocate: Are you able to articulate your learning disability?
4) Types of Support Programs: What LD services does the college offer and do they provide support for your particular LD?
5) Success: What are the college’s retention, graduation, and placement rates for students with LD?
6) Attitude: How accepting/what is the view of the campus community toward students with LD?
7) 360 Degrees: Is there support for LD both in and out of the classroom?
By following these steps, you are taking the time to better understand your unique learning style, academic needs, and optimal learning environment while strengthening your advocating skills. This process is vital in determining whether the colleges you are exploring are a good match. Once you’ve narrowed down your search to the colleges to which you’d like to apply, you then need to visit…visit…visit! Prior fact-finding is important, but seeing is believing. A good college match means understanding what you expect, need, and want from your college years and then aligning these factors with what the college offers and, most importantly, delivers.
While it’s important to know what the college has to offer, it’s also vital for you to explore and know your own interests, talents and skills – your gifts. Learning differently means you approach things from another angle, a different perspective. This is a good thing. You need to find the school that can benefit from your attendance. What do you have to offer?
Start the college planning process early, do your homework, research and explore, and ask the right questions. Above all, dare to dream. It’s your time!
Written by Kimberly Hodges & Kevin Mayne, both Independent Educational Consultants on Estrela Consulting's College Planning Team. In addition to their work with Estrela, Kimberly is Director of Admissions at St. Bernard School and Kevin is Vice President for Enrollment Management at Landmark College.
This article also appeared in the November 2017 edition of Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine, which can be viewed here: Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine November 2017