How can I measure college support for students with learning disabilities?

Eileen Antalek, Ed.D.Eileen Antalek, Ed.D.
Associate Director
Educational Directions, Inc.
As someone who has worked in student support services at Clark University and at Framingham State University, I caution students that they must first “know what you need.” College is not about remediation for your learning issues; it is about accommodation. That said, some students will need continued “coaching” as they progress. That might, for example, take the form of tutoring or help with time management. Thus, I suggest you consider some of the following when asking a college about their services: 

  • Are there fees associated with additional support services? 
  • Is there a separate application process for support services? 
  • What is the caseload for individuals working in support services (you do not want to hear there are 600 students enrolled and only five case managers, for example)? 
  • Is tutoring provided by peers, graduate students, or professionals (such as teachers or professors)? 
  • Is counseling available, and if so, from whom? 
  • Are professors contacted by the program or by the student for accommodations? 
  • Are private dorm rooms (or rooms on quiet floors, substance-free dorms, etc.) available?  
  • What is the college policy if a student requests an exemption from a particular course, such as a foreign language (some require an alternative or substitution that still fills the basic requirement, some waive the requirement altogether, and some will not provide exemptions at all)? 
  • What physical accommodations are available (including assistive technology, if needed)? 
  • Is there a summer orientation or some sort of a pre-college program to help you “warm up” before attending? 

A campus visit is also important if at all possible. You need to know the layout of the campus and the buildings themselves, and not just if you have physical handicaps—a student with significant organization issues, for example, needs to ensure that housing is available on campus and that buildings are close together so that additional time is not spent wandering and searching for classes, resources, etc. 

Finally, it is often worthwhile to attend summer classes so that you can reduce your course load during the fall and spring terms to help you focus and master skills. Ask the college(s) in which you are interested if they have summer classes, or if they accept transfer credits from other colleges if those classes are not available on your campus.

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