Transitioning to College
College life poses different challenges for students with disabilities. When students enroll in college, they are considered responsible adults by faculty and staff. The expectations are that they will assume responsibilities for meeting their class requirements. This added responsibility is coupled with a change in environment. Whereas the high school was a very structured environment with a set schedule, college schedules can vary dramatically. For the first time many students may have considerable time between classes and frequently do not use this time wisely. Students must enforce their own attendance policies and prepare to realize personal consequences if they choose not to attend class.
Students must become adept at realistically assessing and understanding their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and preferences. They must become experts at communicating this information to other adults including instructors and service providers as a self-advocate. Although services are available to students with disabilities through an office specializing in Student Disability Services, the student is the one responsible for seeking these services and supports. Good communication skills and knowledge about oneself becomes crucial to success in college.
Talking with professors about accommodations
Upon request, Student Disability Services (SDS) prepares faculty notification letters each semester for students. The letters provide verification that the student is registered with SDS and lists the approved accommodations. Students who want to use accommodations are required to meet with professors, provide the faculty notification letter and discuss arrangements for accommodations. Students who employ positive skills as a self-advocate find that this system results in a good working relationship with their instructors. Below are some tips on self-advocacy.
Make an appointment to meet with professors
The time immediately before or after class is not a good time to talk with instructors about accommodations. It does not allow the opportunity for the professor to give his/her full attention to the student. Many faculty members have obligations directly after class so they are unable to give a student the time necessary to adequately discuss the student’s needs. Also, the classroom environment does not afford the privacy to ensure confidentiality. Before the semester begins is the best time to meet with faculty. Call or email them to schedule an appointment.
Understand your disability
Students do not have to disclose their disability to professors, but it is helpful to know the effect of the disability may have on one’s ability to meet the course objectives. Disability accommodations and services are intended to modify barriers caused by a disability to provide equal access to education. The student’s ability to discuss anticipated barriers and effective modifications will provide the best opportunity for success in the course. Further discussion with instructors about effective study strategies may also be productive.
When meeting with professors to request accommodations be prepared with the faculty notification letter from SDS and written questions. It is also a good practice to meet with professors to review exams to identify areas for improvement and further study. Students who are experiencing difficulty in a course often find instructors very helpful in suggesting ways to study and improve on assignments. Instructors may also appreciate suggestions from students that may improve understanding of the course material.
Request accommodations at the beginning of the semester
Managing life as a student requires attending to many details and requesting accommodations is usually very important to the success of students with disabilities. Professors also must attend to many details in the accommodation process. Please understand that accommodations take time to arrange. Professors must have at least a five working days’ notice of accommodation requests. Last minute requests cannot be guaranteed and are not recommended.
Comparison of Services
Services are delivered to the student
Services are based on an agreed upon time allotment and menu of choices
School Counselor acts as advocate
Annual review & IEP
Regular parent contact
Entitlement law (IDEA)
Educational and Psychological testing is provided
Student must seek out services
Services are based on situational/individual needs
Student acts as self-advocate
No annual review or IEP
No parent contact
Anti-discrimination law (ADA)