Congratulations on making the decision to attend college. Be sure to talk early with the disability services provider at any college you are considering attending. This person will be happy to meet with you and help you prepare for a successful transition from high school to college.
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What does the transition really mean for you?
At Tompkins Cortland, transitioning means you must be your own advocate. Neither your parents nor your resource room teachers will be available to advocate on your behalf. The Baker Center for Learning will provide some assistance, but in college you will have the primary responsibility to explain your needs and advocate for any assistance you may need.
Remember - you will need the same skills as any other college freshman PLUS the ability to compensate for your disability. You can't do that unless you understand your disability, know how it affects you, and know your own strengths and challenges.
You will decide whether to attend class, do your reading and homework, etc. No one is checking on you. There is no resource room in college. You must be independent and you are responsible for seeking assistance. If you need help, you will need to ask for it; therefore, you must be able to explain your needs to others including faculty, tutors, and other service providers.
You will need to develop compensating strategies and to assess your need for academic adjustments as well as the effectiveness of specific modifications and/or auxiliary aids and services. You will need to know what works for you.
Academic Adjustments in College
There is no general access plan that is appropriate for all students or for a particular disability. One student may need different academic adjustments in different courses. The most appropriate plan provides equal access coupled with consideration of the disability and the documentation, the student's preferences, program and faculty requirements for a particular course, and applicable laws. Note that tutors and personal attendants are not academic adjustments that a college must provide.
Arranging for Academic Adjustments
Requested academic adjustments must be supported by documentation that details the disability itself and the need for the requested modifications and/or auxiliary aids and services. Not all academic adjustments used in high school will be appropriate for college. In addition, some academic adjustments not used in high school will be appropriate for college.
Merely providing a particular diagnosis, IEP, or 504 Plan generally is not sufficient documentation by itself. Common problems with documentation include currency (how recently was the evaluation done), sufficiency, and qualifications of the examiner. As early as possible, make sure your documentation is sufficient to support the academic adjustments you will need.
Some students are declassified under IDEA during high school. This does not automatically mean that the student can't be considered as a having a disability at college; however, the appropriateness of declassification should be looked at carefully in light of the transition needs for success in the college environment.
What do colleges see as the most common reasons students with disabilities fail?
- Expectation of support beyond what is available
- Lack of active participation in own learning.
- Low academic skills, especially in writing and reading.
- Lack of awareness of necessary compensating and/or modification strategies.
- Not asking for help or using the recommendations of disability support service providers until after failure has already occurred.
Don't become one of those statistics. Your success is dependent on your planning. Get actively involved NOW.
Does this sound daunting? The trick is to start early and be actively involved in your planning for success in both high school and college. Use the resources available to you including:
- Teachers, parents, tutors, counselors, psychologists, mentors, other students
- Print, video, electronic resources
- Journals, reflective exercises
If you have an IEP, beginning at age 12, NYS law* requires that the plan be based on adult education, career, and independent living goals. If you want to go to college, that should be clearly reflected, and your annual plan should address your needs for appropriate coursework, understanding of your disability, development of self-advocacy skills, and development of independent living skills. Be involved in the creation of those plans, discuss them with your parents and teachers, and go to the Committee on Special Education meetings!
When considering the strategies and modifications or auxiliary aids and services you will need for success at the postsecondary institution, don't look only to what you have used in the past. What is expected of you in terms of independent reading and writing and the volume of work expected will be much greater in college than it was in high school. Your strategies and appropriate academic adjustments will probably also need to change. Talk to teachers, parents, siblings, and friends; find out what they had difficulty with in college. Then consider how you will tackle those challenges.
If you use audio formats obtain an individual membership in Learning Ally (formerly RFBD) and/or Bookshare. Connect with appropriate adult services agencies, e.g. ACCES-VR, CBVH, and the Learning Disabilities Association. Learn about assistive technology (both hardware and software) that may help you work independently.
MOST IMPORTANT: You can't make good decisions without good information. So ask questions and find out what you need to know!
The resources linked below are valuable resources to help make the smoothest transition possible.