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Monday, December 16, 2013

Questions to Ask a College's Learning Support Staff

             As students with learning differences investigate college options, it is important to take the time to meet with the staff who will be providing the needed accommodations and services. While students and parents may have their own specific questions based on individual needs, below are some general questions that families may wish to pose.
·         How are students with learning differences supported at the college?  While most colleges are able to provide standard accommodations and services such as extended time for testing and note taking services, it is important to have a full picture of what is possible.  Is assistive technology available? Are tutoring services provided by peers or professionals?  Will students receive individualized attention, and if so, how frequently?

·         How are professors notified of the accommodations? While the learning support staff can often be helpful with this, it is typically the student's responsibility to initiate the use of accommodations and take a proactive approach in communicating those needs to professors.

·         How is the learning support center staffed?  Being aware of how many full-time and part-time staff members are available and how they are assigned to students is important information to be aware of from the beginning.  Some colleges have a large staff, and others are very limited.

·         What documentation does the office need in order to consider students for special services? While most colleges will accept testing that has been completed within the past three years, it is best to know this information before applying to the college.  At the minimum, the staff will typically want to see a test of cognitive ability and tests of achievement.  Information from the child's school, such as an IEP may be helpful additional documentation but will rarely suffice as the sole documentation.

·         What role, if any, does the learning support staff play in the admissions process? Colleges with structured support programs will usually have a separate admissions procedure and may be a part of the general admissions process.  In other circumstances, the learning support office does not become involved until after the student has decided to matriculate.

·         How successful are students who receive learning support? Can the office provide information about retention or graduation rates for this population of learners?

·         Are course waivers or substitutions available?  While some colleges may be able to consider substituting or waiving courses in areas such as foreign language or mathematics for students with specific disabilities, they are not required to do so?
            These questions can be a springboard for further questions and discussions that will take place throughout the college search and application process.  As a result, scheduling time with learning support staff when visiting a college is a key step in identifying the right fit.
Thanks, Kristen
Kristen Tabun
Director of College Guidance
Woodlynde School
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