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College-Bound Students with Learning Differences: Request Documentation Now

Osler Library, McGill University. Image by Ziko van Dijk at Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0 Int'l.

Capstone will be posting often this summer about the transition from high school to college. This first article is for students with diverse learning needs because you have time-sensitive tasks that need attention, beginning with making sure you have received all of your required documentation from your high school counseling office before they close up for the summer.

Listed below are the four key things to know as you begin your transition process, but first some background information about college disability services.

All colleges and universities provide support for students with diverse learning needs, but the programs may differ both in the quality and quantity of services they offer. In brief, there are  three categories of support at the college level: Basic accommodations, including extra time on exams, quiet rooms for testing, and options for assistive technology; Enhanced services, such as access to free tutoring and a technology specialist; and Fee-for-service programs, which can provide support from a learning specialist several times a week, as well as ongoing ADHD and executive functioning coaching.

The key to a successful transition to college for students with learning differences is planning ahead and requesting services early from the disability services (DS) office. So now is the time to gather the required documentation from your high school counseling office and make your initial appointment at your college DS office. College courses move more quickly than high school ones, so, ideally, your accommodations will be in place from your first day of school so that you can get off to a strong start.

Students are often unaware that Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans expire when you graduate from high school, and colleges and universities are under no obligation to implement the exact same list of services or accommodations. They do, however, want to work with you to find the balance between what they feel you need and what they are equipped to offer.

How to access and use these services

1. Gather all of your DS-required documentation from your high school

Whether you will be on your college campus this fall or studying remotely, this is the first step in planning for your initial appointment with your college’s DS office. Before your high school counseling staff goes on summer break, reach out and request copies of the following documents: 1) your current IEP or 504 plan; 2) your most recent psychoeducational evaluation (“psycho-ed report”); and 3) a copy of the "Exit Summary of your Academic Achievement/Functional Performance". These are the primary documents you will need to submit. Your specific college may request additional paperwork as well.

2. Request a formal appointment with a DS counselor

Sooner is better as COVID-19 has placed an additional burden on college staff. You, the student, need to reach out for this appointment and you will be taking the lead as you work with your college DS office to determine your list of accommodations. You may grant permission for your parents to participate in meetings, however.

3. Read through your IEP or 504 Plan and prepare your request

Careful preparation by the student before the DS meeting will lead to a more satisfying and productive meeting. Come ready to present a list of the accommodations, services and specialized assistance you feel you deserve and an explanation of why you need them.

4. Keep your professors informed about your accommodations

This includes letting your professors know what type of assistive technology you will be allowed to use, along with making sure they continue to abide by the accommodations list that they should have received from the DS office. Be sure to meet with your instructors within the first two weeks of school so you know you'll have everything you need prior to receiving your first grades. Remember, this is your responsibility.

At Capstone, we provide guidance on how best to evaluate DS programs, and we plan to devote future blogs to this subject. Please reach out if you would like to learn more about how we can help you, including assisting you with DS requests for any type of health need or disability as you plan your college transition.

We are here to help!

Posted in Learning Differences

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