Betsy Brandt, the Disability Services Coordinator at the Center for Disabilities at UW-Whitewater, provides today’s post. She has a Master of Science degree in Counseling and Student Personnel, along with a School Counseling Certificate. She has considerable experience in the field of students with disabilities, and has pertinent advice about the transition to college. Here are Betsy’s words.
As a student with a disability, going to college may require a few extra steps, but the degree is definitely worth it! Typically, students register with the disabilities services office on campus. This office may have different names, i.e. Center for Students with Disabilities, or Accessibility Center. Registering or applying for services often requires a short application, providing disability documentation, and an intake meeting where services are determined.
It is important to find out when the student should apply for services. For some universities, an application for the university can be submitted concurrently with an application for services. Other colleges may ask students to wait until the student has been accepted to the university.
Students, parents, families, and supporters and counselors should consider a number of areas when a student with a disability is planning for college. Those areas include the following.
Academics – Students need to know that studying, homework, projects, etc. in college will likely require much more time than in high school. A typical rubric is that for every hour spent in class, two to three hours of outside work will be required. Students should do whatever they can do in high school to develop strong independent studying, notetaking, and test-taking skills.
Accessibility – It is important to see if the campus is accessible for each student’s needs. This can include physical, communication or sensory accessibility (classrooms, residence halls, physical space etc.), and accessibility to resources (alternative format materials, communication, video and digital media, interpreters etc.). Is the university committed to making sure students have the same access to all university events and co-curricular opportunities? Is the university engaged in the success of students with disabilities?
Accommodations – Be knowledgeable about the accommodations offered at the university level. Some accommodations or modifications that are available in high school are not available in college. Examples of modifications not provided at most colleges and universities include but are not limited to: modified tests, notes for every test, extended due dates for assignments, or word banks. If a student is thinking about college, it is important that they gradually refrain from using modifications that are not approved in college and shift to accommodations such as: extended testing time, alternative format print material (audio or digital books), reduced course load or only taking 4 classes at a time, use of peer notes, or use of adaptive technology.
An excellent resource is the Department of Education’s Opening Doors publication.