Although college can be especially challenging for students with learning disabilities, success is still an option. You may just have to work a little harder than the average student. Here are some strategies to help you succeed in college with a learning disability.
Make sure you are eligible for college services. In order to be eligible for the services provided to learning disabled students, you must provide documentation to your college showing that you are, in fact, learning disabled. Most colleges will require documentation from a licensed professional that demonstrates how the learning disability limits your ability to participate in an academic setting. Make sure the documentation is current (usually within three to five years), or you may have to be reevaluated in order to be eligible for services.
Utilize the services offered. Colleges provide academic accommodations to students with learning disabilities. Accommodations may include:
Textbooks on tape
Use of tape recorders
Extended time for taking tests
Alternative test formats
Test setting with few distractions
Check with your college to see what specific services are offered. Read Services for Students with Learning Disabilities for more information on the types of services that colleges offer to learning disabled students.
Select an appropriate set of courses. When registering for courses, be sure to pick less demanding classes along with your more demanding classes. Having a good balance of courses will keep you from feeling overwhelmed. For instance, don't fill your schedule with all reading and writing courses. If you are taking a few classes that require extensive reading and/or writing, be sure to balance out your schedule with a class that does not require a lot of reading and writing, such as math.
Attend all classes. If you know that you are not going to wake up in time for that 8am biology lecture, then don't register for that time slot. As a learning disabled student, it is crucial for you to try to attend every class so you don't fall behind in your studies.
Stay organized. Organization is key in being successful at college. The combination of classes, assignments, study time, social events, club meetings, work, etc. makes it crucial for you to stay organized. Create a weekly calendar of your schedule, assignment due dates, test dates, project deadlines, etc., and make sure to review the calendar on an everyday basis. Create a filing system for important papers, and make sure to keep an organized desk free from unwanted clutter. You will find that being more orderly will help you with your studies; organization makes for a constructive learning environment.
Be aware of your learning differences and limits. As a learning disabled student, you may find that it takes you longer to complete assignments than your classmates. Therefore, you may have to start working on projects and homework assignments before they do. Be sure to set aside a time period for working on projects, studying, etc. that is convenient for you. You need to know yourself and your learning disability in order to allow yourself enough time to finish assignments.
Stay in contact with your professors. At the beginning of each semester, get in contact with your professors and let them know that you may need help along the way, such as note takers, alternative test formats, etc. Be sure to ask if tape recorders are allowed in their classrooms. If you find that you are having trouble with assignments/tests, ask for their assistance right away; don't wait until you are failing.
Join or start a support group. The best way of coping and working with your learning disability is to find people who share the same disability. Getting involved with a support group is a great way to share ideas, feelings, learning techniques, etc. At the group meetings, you will find out that your problems are not unique and that other people share the same struggles as you. If your school doesn't offer support groups for learning disabled students, start one of your own. It's a great way to help others and meet new people at the same time.
When you have a learning disability, juggling the many activities associated with college can be frustrating. However, don't let that frustration make you doubt your ability to succeed. Remember to focus on your strengths, adapt study habits conducive to your needs, and ask for assistance when needed. For more tips on how to succeed in college with a learning disability, contact the Student Services Department at your school.