Congratulations — you're off to college! This may be the first time you'll choose your own classes, manage your own workload, and be your own advocate. How will you optimize your learning experience? Try this advice for securing accommodations to get your best education.
REGISTER IMMEDIATELY FOR ACCOMMODATIONS, even if you didn't use them in high school. Many students don't realize that their high school accommodations aren't automatically transferred to college. Professors expect to have an official letter authorizing accommodations.
KNOW THE ACCOMMODATION RULES. Colleges are mandated to provide "reasonable accommodations" (extended test time, class notes, audio books, and so on) to level the playing field for students with disabilities. There aren't requirements to provide individualized supports, although many universities offer these. Colleges and professors have the right to define their graduation and course requirements.
TAKE THE LEAD. As soon as you're admitted, do the following:
1) Gather your records, including evaluations and school records.
2) Learn about how your disability impacts you. Read your reports; talk with your parents and the person who evaluated you. Identify what helped you in high school.
3) Practice talking about your disability. Consider writing a practice script.
4) Contact the disabilities office on campus. Learn which type of documentation is required to get accommodations and how you get approved.
5) Schedule a meeting to determine your accommodations. Be prepared. What do you find challenging in your classes? What helped in high school? Check the college website to identify the accommodations you'll request. If your requests are denied, ask if there is an appeal process.
6) Know what your approved accommodations are and what the procedures are to receive them. Take notes or tape the meeting.
7) Meet with your professors to discuss your accommodations. Your professors will either receive notification authorizing your accommodations, or you'll be given a letter to deliver to them.
8) Ask yourself: Are the accommodations helping? Report any problems to the disabilities office. Request changes you think are needed.
9) Follow the same process with new professors every semester.
THERESA MAITLAND, Ph.D., is the coordinator of the Academic Success Program for Students with LD/ADHD: A Learning Center Program at the University of North Carolina.
This article appears in the Fall issue of ADDitude.
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