What can I do in high school to get ready (prepare) for college?
Congratulations on making the decision to attend college.
First, let's look at what the primary differences are for students with disabilities in high school and in college:
Most students in high school are covered by IDEA (Special Education), some by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 and the American with Disabilities Act cover all students in college.
Rights and Responsibilities
In high school most responsibilities lie with the school and decisions are made by the school and by your parents and teachers. In college, many of those responsibilities will belong to you. It is very important that you understand your rights and responsibilities so that you can make informed, wise choices.
In general, under IDEA, the school is responsible to identify students, provide assessment, and monitor service provision. Under Section 504/ADA, the student is responsible to self-identify, request accommodations, and provide appropriate documentation.
Students with disabilities have the right to:
Students with disabilities have the responsibility to:
What should you know about your disability?
You are now your own advocate. Your parents and resource room teachers will not be on campus to advocate on your behalf. The campus disability services office will provide some assistance, but you now 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 work with your disability. You can't do that unless you understand your disability, know how it affects you, and know your own strengths and challenges. In addition, you will be responsible for seeking help. Therefore, you must be able to explain your needs to others-faculty, tutors, service providers.
You will need to develop compensating strategies and to assess your need for and the effectiveness of specific accommodation strategies. You need to know what services you need for success.
If applicable you will also need to connect with appropriate adult services agencies, e.g. VESID, CBVH, Learning Disabilities Association etc. If you use taped-text books, obtain an individual membership in Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic.
Learn about adaptive technology, both hardware and software, that may help you work independently. ( Link to the section on adaptive technology)
What do colleges identify as the most common reasons students with disabilities fail?
Don't become one of those statistics. Your success is dependent on planning. Get actively involved NOW.
It is a good idea to complete the Self Assessment Questionaire. It will help to decide if college is a practical choice for you at this time. It contains a list of questions you should ask yourself to help you make your choice. Keep in mind that each college has conditions and limitations on eligibility for financial aid, keeping a minimum grade point average, academic progress, etc.
If there are any questions which you cannot answer, discuss them with your parents, teachers or others who can help you find the answers.
How can you identify the best college for you?
Collect general information from agencies, publications, your Guidance Office, and the Internet, and collect specific information from disability service personnel and other students. Remember you are looking for the best match between YOU and a college and its services.
There are many kinds of post-secondary institutions, including community colleges, state colleges, private colleges, universities, and trade schools. Each has something different to offer students. As you consider your educational and career goals, explore which type of institution will best help you achieve those goals.
When looking at a particular institution, consider both the availability of academic programs and the availability of support services that you will need to be successful. Early in the process, even before filing a formal application, contact the disability support services office at schools you are considering. They will be happy to provide information about disability services and general information about the school.
Some colleges have disability service programs that, for an extra fee, provide individualized services beyond those required by law. If you determine that your success plan includes a need for extensive tutoring or other personal assistance, look for schools with specialized programs.
Find out about each school's general education requirements as well as the specific course requirements for the academic program in which you are interested. If your weaknesses are in writing, foreign language, or math, find out what the requirements are for courses in these areas. Different schools will have different requirements. Don?t make assumptions about the course requirements of all schools based on a small sample; explore the requirements for each school. If you anticipate asking a school to allow a substitution for a requirement, for example foreign language, find out what is required to make that request. Do not assume that courses will be waived just because they were in high school.
VISIT the school, if possible. Make sure to arrange a visit to the disability services office while you are on campus. Ask to talk with current students with similar disabilities; they can be one of your best sources of information to help you find a good match.
Begin the financial aid process early. A good resource for beginning your exploration of financial resources is Creating Options: A Resource on Financial Aid for Students with Disabilites available from the Heath Resource Center at: http://www.heath.gwu.edu/bookstore/pdf/heath-fin-aid2001.pdf.