Despite seeing first-hand the success that students with learning differences and/or ADHD can have when they make the transition from high school to college, I am very troubled by the statistics for the LD/ADHD population as a whole. In light of these statistics that show students with diagnosed learning differences and ADHD complete college at a lesser rate than those without disabilities, it is important for students with college aspirations to develop strategies for success.
One reason students with learning disabilities and ADHD may struggle in college, even after being successful in high school, is that the laws protecting them change. While students in high school are protected by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), once they become college students they are no longer granted the types of entitlements that IDEA guarantees. For example, individual counseling, tutoring and one-on-one aides are no longer required to be provided to the student upon entering college. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504, which is a civil rights law, colleges and universities, are not obligated to provide services which are considered unreasonable and may alter course requirements. Some examples of services or accommodations that may be difficult to obtain in college, even if they were not in high school, include access to study guides, additional time to complete assignments and projects, and alternative assignments or assessments. Students should also not expect their requirements for reading assignments or the length of assignments to be altered. For the first time in their lives, it is incumbent upon the student to disclose any disability, provide necessary documentation and request services. Some research indicates that less than 25 percent of students who attend post-secondary institutions share information about their disability with the schools, a situation that leaves many of them vulnerable to failure.
Still, there is hope. Some ways that high school students can prepare themselves for this transition include:
· Challenging themselves academically when they are in high school so there is a better understanding of what they can do at the college level.
· Learning to explain their difficulties and how it affects their performance before they get to campus.
· Disclosing their learning differences, even if they think they may want to give their courses a try without the use of accommodations. If a student has already been approved for special testing accommodations, for example, it will be easier to activate them once the student decides to utilize them. Otherwise, the process can take some time, and the student continues to struggle in the meantime.
· Establishing a relationship with the support services staff on the college campus. Many students who complete their degree programs do so in part because of the special relationships they had established with the support staff.
· Participating in dual-enrollment programs with local colleges that allow students to take a college course, often on the college campus with college students, while still in high school. Participating in college courses provides an opportunity for students to know success while also learning the differences between high school and college, all while establishing relationships with faculty and academic support staff.
· Researching which professors are most likely to be supportive of students with learning differences once they have matriculated.
· Investigating the possibility of obtaining waivers or substitutions for certain curricular requirements.
· Requesting preferential seating, a planning agenda, and additional planning and study time.
Upon choosing to matriculate, LD/ADHD students must continue to use these strategies and be open to implementing new ones in order to enhance the likelihood of earning a degree and setting themselves up for success upon graduation.
Director of College Guidance
Director of College Guidance