Last Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Eric Endlich, PhD
Psychologist and Founder
Top College Consultants
First of all, keep in mind all colleges are required to provide some form of disability accommodations according to federal law. During your college search, visit each school’s Office of Disability Services website—or better yet, visit the office in person. Staff will be happy to explain what supports and services they have available. Sometimes the “supports” are really just standard accommodations. Support services such as free peer tutoring and mental health counseling are commonly available as well.
If you struggle with executive function issues such as organization and time management, you may need a more comprehensive array of services. A number of colleges offer specialized programs for students with learning differences, including the opportunity to meet regularly with an academic coach or mentor who can help you stay on track with your coursework and improve your study skills. In some cases, these programs charge an additional fee. Students on the spectrum may wish to consult my autism-friendly college list for programs that also contain social skills coaching or social activities.
If you need executive function coaching but are strongly interested in a college that lacks this service, don’t worry: there are a number of companies and independent coaches who can work with you virtually regardless of which college you decide to attend. So one way or another, you’ll have support.
Eileen Antalek, EdD
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’s 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 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 isn’t spent wandering and searching for classes, resources, etc. Finally, it’s often worthwhile to attend summer classes so 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’re interested if they have summer classes or if they accept transfer credits from other colleges if those classes aren’t available on your campus.
For more helpful advice about learning differences, check out our College Diversity section.