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Top College Search Tips for Students With Learning Differences

The right opportunity can go a long way for students with learning differences. Here are some tips to start off strong in your college search.

The college search experience is definitely a challenge for many of us, as it comes with many unique hurdles. But it can pose an even greater obstacle for students with special needs or learning disabilities, given that they may already find it difficult to cope with the subject matter of a demanding high school curriculum. From dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and auditory and visual processing deficits to Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, there is a wide range of learning difficulties that students may face. Only 24% of students with difficulties disclose their learning problems. This shouldn’t be the case, as they deserve a chance to be tested and evaluated on the same playing field as their peers.

There are still many avenues for students to consider given the sheer number of universities and what services they have to offer. Students with learning difficulties must begin their college search with extensive, effective, and comprehensive research so they can explore all their different options at great length. Here are a few college search tips that can go a long way in setting a strong foundation for students with learning challenges.

Choose the right course

Take your interests, aptitude, and plans into account before you make an informed decision about which college to attend. You should start early and spend time with your research so that you’re able to plan steadily and analyze all your options. It’s vital to pick a college that offers a wide range of flexible courses so that you’re able to enjoy your studies and stay motivated in the long run. Pay attention to the demands, expectations, and complete gamut of each course. Colleges like the University of Connecticut, University of Iowa, Curry College, University of Arizona, and Beacon College are well known for offering an array of courses for students who face academic challenges. Also be aware of academic and learning resources each school offers, like writing centers, tutoring labs, or note-taking services.

Related: List: Colleges Where Students With Learning Differences Succeed

Pay attention to the specifics

Before you make a final decision, you should ensure that you look into the finer details of a college or university’s courses. They should match your learning style and approach as well as your habits so you can try to keep your stress levels at bay. Learning techniques at universities vary. There are sundry courses that employ different methods of teaching. You should focus on analyzing the scope of each course, module, and elective that you may be expected to pick. In certain fields, there are courses that mainly rely on lecture-based or project-based learning. Students who don’t prefer the more conventional methods of learning (i.e., lectures and exams) often perform better in courses with more project-based learning. It is often more abstract and gives students more opportunities to express themselves creatively and present their work and understanding of the subject matter.

Get to know a school’s environment

This is essential when you’re picking and eliminating colleges on your list. The four years you spend at a university aren’t only about academics. If you know you face learning obstacles, you should look for a college with a strong support system and comfortable social environment. The University of Arizona provides students with Strategic Learning Specialists so that they’re able to get help. They offer regular consultations to make study plans for students. Similarly, American University helps college freshmen with the initial transition between high school and college. Students meet their supervisors on a regular basis so that they’re guided effectively through their course of study. Additionally, you may want to keep an eye out for colleges that dedicate resources toward extracurricular activities and sports. This could be a good way for you to bond with like-minded individuals. Places like the University of Florida have outstanding sports programs, and colleges like Boston University are known for oratory, speech, and debate clubs and competitions.

Related: Success With Learning Differences: Important Services Offered in College

During the many stages of your college search, it’s essential to keep an open mind, because the possibilities are endless. Surround yourself with supportive people to keep you sane during this puzzling time. Tell your parents, friends, or guidance counselor about your concerns so that they can help alleviate any stress. Beginning your college search earlier can also really help you feel more relaxed about what’s to come, as you’ll be well prepared for any challenges you may face on the road to finding your best-fit university.

Start searching for colleges that support your academic needs using our College Search tool.

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About Shivani Ekkanath

Shivani Ekkanath

As a person applying to college this year, I want to chronicle this crazy and unpredictable yet rewarding and fascinating journey so the experience feels less daunting for other students. I'm currently preparing to study Political Science for my undergraduate degree while trying my best to win a battle with the pressures of the IB diploma. I'm a lover of music, debating, reading about current affairs, dancing, baking (not too well), and writing. I'm also an an aspiring journalist and hope to attend Columbia University one day and work for the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.


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