What are the best ways for students with disabilities to find the right college?
Students with disabilities must be aware on how you learn best. Then when looking a colleges, you can research if that college can support their learning needs. In high school you can take a college prep course to introduce you to the rigor of the work you will experience in college. Make sure that your IEP or 504 plan is updated during your senior year of high school. Then you can use it to request the appropriate learning accommodations at college.
When advising students with learning disabilities, I first ask them to identify what attributes they want in a college (i.e. geographic region, size, etc.). Once the type of college is identified, the student should directly contact that college’s support services department. This allows the student to find out what is offered and whether or not the student would feel comfortable with that college’s program. Students should keep in mind that not all programs are equally as strong, with some colleges having virtually no services. Also remember to ask what services the college offers LD students, and how successful the students in the program have been. I would also advise visiting the colleges and meeting with the director of the college’s disability services. I cannot stress enough how important it is for students to have direct contact with each college. The best college for a student with a disability is to simply identify what colleges they are interested in, and find out if each one has a program that will meet their needs. It is basically the same process as any other student, but each student must do some additional follow-up.
The best way to find the right college is to PREPARE EARLY. Know your LD and your learning profile. I find that most high school students have never even read their diagnostic testing, nor do they fully understand their LD. You must learn about yourself and what your needs are. Decide whether or not you need accommodations, and if you do, what kind of services do you need? Do you want accommodations only, or do you want a comprehensive service that gives you assistance with your LD and your education? If you need comprehensive services, only look at colleges that have comprehensive LD programs or colleges specifically for LD students. If you feel you only need accommodations such as extended time testing, just make sure the college has a good Student Disabilities office. Ask questions, and visit the Disabled Student Services office when you look at colleges. In college, it is YOUR job to advocate for yourself, and to do that, you have to understand yourself and your LD.
An independent educational consultant may be your best starting point. There are guidebooks (The K&W Guide), information on websites, and your current educational providers to look to for information. Obviously the specific disability may drive your search. A mobility impairment presents a different set of circumstances than someone with dyslexia. Knowing what you will need to experience success in college is key. It will be up to you to advocate for yourself once you are on campus, so there is no time like the present.
there are counselors that specialize in providing services to students who need programs in addition to academics to support and ensure college success.
getting information about special programs is not a difficult task but understanding the contents is a lot more challenge for families.
This is an important conversation to have in your annual meetings with your parent(s), counselor, and case manager present. They may know of some scholarship opportunities that you are not aware of.
Finding the right college fit requires students to know themselves well and students who have been diagnosed with a learning difference are armed with specific insight into their their learning style as well as their academic strengths and weaknesses. Using this knowledge, families can find learning environments most suited to the individual student. For example, students who receive accommodations for distraction-free seating assignments in high school will be best served enrolling in colleges with small class sizes. View self-awareness about your learning style as a strength that will allow you to find an ideal college match.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, guarantees that all U.S. colleges/universities provide some level of services/accommodations for students with disabilities. Some institutions, taking this requirement further, offer comprehensive programs supporting learning and/or physically disabled students. Students should seek schools which offer the best support for their specific disabilities. Try the following websites:
Have an in depth discussion with the DSS office & support staff well in advance of applying or making a campus visit.
Students with disabilities should search for a college in the same way a student without a disability searches for a college. First, begin to ask yourself what you are looking for in a college experience- big college vs. small college, location, major, vibe. Once you have set your parameters for your search, start exploring colleges online. I would look at the majors offered, read student blogs, and take an online campus tour. When you have a college list, go back through the colleges and explore the disability services offices.
For students who feel like they are going to need highly specialized disability programs, it may make more sense to look for colleges with these programs at the beginning of the search.
Have an in depth discussion with the DSS office & support staff well in advance of applying or a campus visit.
The fundamental process is no different, but students with disabilities do need to determine what the exact extent of the school’s effort and accommodations will be. Given the nature of the Americans With Disabilities Act there are certain things that every school must provide, but some are certainly more involved and active than others. You can get basic information off the school’s website, but you will need to ask questions as well. There are some schools that are making a point of being particularly open to and supportive of students with learning disabilities—they are seeking to make it their it is their niche–and obviously those schools are ones that student with disabilities might find particularly attractive all other things being equal.
Students with disabilities should do their research early on in their high school career. Since every student may require different modifications and accommodations, it is essential that what you need to best succeed on the collegiate level is readily available on the campus you are considering attending.
Some schools provide basic disabilities accomodation as required by law, other schools have comprehensive programs and are known for their accomodation programs. Schools with more structured programs may charge an additional fee in order to provide you with the best services. But, they typically have more staff to help students with disabilities, they may mandate tutoring hours for students, or may offer diagnostic testing services.
Depending on your disability, it may important to find a more proactive structured program in order to be successful. To name a few….American University, Marist, Curry, George Mason, Hofstra, Iona, Mitchell, Landmark, Mount Ida, Sacred Heart.
I would visit prospective schools and meet with the disabilities program coordinator to find out what services are offered and if the school would be the right fit for you.
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The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
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