A TIME OF TRANSITION – THE NEXT STEP
Written by: longtime colleague and friend, Helen Bryant
While this is an exciting time for seniors, with just three quarters left in their high school experience, it is also a time of apprehension and uncertainty for many. They all are looking towards the future beyond high school, whether that means college, tech school, employment or the military. After having spent four years in the safe and supportive environment of the high school, transitioning to college, especially, can hold unknown pitfalls for even the best prepared students.
As seniors look ahead, it is important that they understand the differences between high school and college. While they often talk about the independence and freedom that college affords, few realize the specific differences between high school and college. A handout I recently received at a Curry College workshop, “Helping Students with Learning Disabilities Navigate the College Search,” summarized these differences in a clear and detailed manner (see below). While all college programs are unique is some ways, there are some commonalties about the college experience and this could serve as a guide for all students as they explore their options.
ARE YOU READY? : How college is different from high school
Adapted from Southern Methodist University, How is College Different from High School. [Online]
Students with disabilities often face additional challenges as they search to find the right match in a college program. While colleges may not inquire about a student’s disability prior to acceptance, students with disabilities should consider contacting the college’s Section 504/ADA Coordinator, Office for Disabilities Services or Student Services Office to determine what services are available for students with disabilities. In addition, these offices can also advise the student as to what documentation is needed in order to ensure that s/he will be eligible to receive services at the college level. It is important to understand that colleges are only required to make accommodations if the nature of the disability requires such adjustments and is supported by the documentation. Students will need to check individual college websites to locate information about their established guidelines for documentation. Colleges are not required to make all recommended accommodations, only “reasonable accommodations”/“academic adjustments” as necessary to ensure that they do not discriminate on the basis of a disability. Students must remember that at the college level, they must choose to “disclose” that they have a disability and be proactive in advocating their needs. Please note that having an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in high school does not guarantee any services or accommodations at the college level.
Beyond accommodations, colleges may offer a variety of additional services. Although colleges may not charge to implement mandated accommodations, there may be an additional fee for specific services offered. Some colleges offer Comprehensive Services; these programs are often have special admission procedures and are typically staffed by learning disability specialists. The services offered may include: summer programming, compensatory strategy instruction/support, advocacy training, subject-area tutoring, and basic skills remediation among others. Participation in these programs is usually compulsory; a student chooses to enroll in this program within the college. Other colleges offer what are termed Coordinated Services. These programs are usually staffed by professionals with some specific LD experience and/or training. Students access these services, which may include tutoring, study skills/ learning strategies instruction, and/or academic advising, on a “drop-in” basis. Many of these services are delivered by peer tutors. Finally, some colleges provide Basic Services; they provide accommodations, but do not have monitoring and depend upon the student to advocate for themselves. In addition to services specific for students with disabilities, many colleges also have other resources available to all students on campus, such as writing centers, peer tutors, study skills seminars and academic counseling. It is important for students with disabilities to carefully research the types of services available; college websites usually have detailed information which students can investigate as part of their college search.
The special education department has several publications about colleges for students with disabilities, which students and parents can borrow short-term. In addition, the following online resources might also be helpful:
Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) www.ahead.org
LDOnline – College Planning and LD Students http://www.ldonline.org/indepth/college
College Resources for Students with Disabilities Guidebook http://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/college-resource-center/resources-for-students-with-disabilities/