As students prepare to go back to school, parents of those students who find middle and high school difficult may worry about their child’s future. Many students who struggle believe college is not an option for them. While college might be difficult, it is not necessarily out of the question. Sometimes it is the choice of college that presents a problem.
When considering which college to attend, students who struggle (and their parents) should think about these 9 points:
1. Will the college I am considering offer me the same accommodations I have been receiving in high school? This can include extended time on tests, access to a computer, or exemption from foreign languages. (See Ask for Help if Your Teen Has a Learning Problem.) When you visit the school, talk to enrolled students with similar learning struggles to make sure the college actually does provide what it claims to provide.
2. How big are the classes? Smaller classes offer more opportunities for personalized help, so looking at smaller colleges is probably a better option.
3. Will I be allowed to ask questions? Some colleges have such large classes that students do not get to speak to their professors at all (and, as at any school, some professors are open to questions being asked during class and others are not). Be sure to choose a school that provides access to professors outside of class time. And then choose professors who are easy to work with. You can find this out by asking other students, your advisor, or by visiting online sites that rate professors such as Rate My Professors (note that while most reviews are legitimate, some especially negative reviews may be posted by disgruntled students).
4. Choose a major that will make use of your strengths. Some of my students have chosen to major in areas like physical therapy or recreational therapy because they are so good with people. Think about what you like to do and find a course of study that will allow you to do that.
5. Take fewer courses at a time. This way you can focus on less material and spend plenty of time studying for each course. It may take you longer to finish college, but the extra time will be worth it in the end.
6. Sign up to receive services from the learning resources center (or whatever it is called at your college of choice). Typically you qualify for this if you had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in high school. The center can help you stay on track, offer proofreading and other services, and help you receive accommodations if you need them. They can also recommend professors who are better at working with students who need a little more help. But signing up for services isn’t enough—you actually have to show up and use them!
7. Attend class regularly. It is so much easier to learn if you are in class, hear all the discussions, and participate in the activities. This is especially true if you have difficulty navigating your textbook and learning from what you read. (See Student Absences: They Hurt Learning More Than You Might Think.)
8. Form partnerships with other students in your classes. Set up study groups so you can get together to discuss what you are learning in class, and exchange phone numbers so you can help one another when you have to miss class.
9. Understand that some people learn easily in school and don’t have to work as hard as you do. Life is not fair. But someday when you have your college degree, you will be able to pursue a career that makes use of your strengths. You will have a better work ethic than other students who didn’t have to work as hard as you did. I firmly believe that School Is Not Life!
So, don’t give up. Hang in there until you get to begin really having fun, in your career.