Tips For College Students With Learning Disabilities

Tips For College Students With Learning Disabilities

This article was contributed by Stephen S. Strichart, Ph.D., founder of, a free study skills resource site. You will find more than 60 articles and hundreds of study tips at his site.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires colleges to provide appropriate academic accommodations to students with disabilities. But, be aware that a college does not have to seek out and identify students with disabilities. If you have a documented learning disability, you are not required to disclose it to the college. However, you must disclose and provide documentation of your learning disability in order to receive appropriate accommodations.

Types of accommodations typically provided by colleges include:

  • Priority registration to enable you to register for the courses and sections that are best for you.
  • Reducing the course load you must carry in order to be considered a full-time student. This is important for financial aid purposes.
  • Substitution of another course for a required course. For example, if you have a math disability, you might be allowed to substitute a course in the social sciences for a required math course.
  • Assigned note takers who provide you with a duplicate set of their class notes.
  • Extended time to take tests at a proctored out-of-class location.
  • Alternative test arrangements such as allowing you to tape-record responses to essay test items if you have a writing disability.
  • Assistance in obtaining audio textbooks if you have a reading disability.
  • Specialized tutoring in your areas of greatest difficulty.

These accommodations are usually coordinated by the colleges Office of Disability Services. You will find the accommodations very helpful, but they are not sufficient for your success in and of themselves. It is important for you to acknowledge that college will be more difficult for you than for students who do not have a learning disability. This means that you must work harder and plan better than the average student in order to succeed. The suggestions that follow can help you succeed.

  • Balance your course load each semester. Select a balance of more demanding and less demanding courses. Don't overload your schedule with courses that require extensive reading and writing.
  • Attend every class session. By doing this, you will not miss out on important information, and will be able to ask questions and actively participate.
  • Stay organized. Use a planner to keep track of your class schedule, due dates for assignments, and test dates. Don't rely on just trying to remember things.
  • Get involved with a support group comprised of other students with learning disabilities. You can share concerns and effective learning strategies, as well as foster social relationships.
  • Talk with your professors. Let them know about your disability and the accommodations you will be receiving. They may have suggestions about how they can further help you succeed in their classes.
  • Sit up front in each of your classrooms. You'll have fewer distractions there.
  • Do all your assignments. Your professors probably won't check them, but they will assume that you are doing them. This assumption will be reflected in the tests they give. Be sure to ask questions or ask for help if you have difficulty completing your assignments.
  • Frequently review your notes from classes and textbooks. This will help you move information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.
  • If the college offers a Freshman Experience course, take it in your first semester. Such a course will help orient you to the college experience, which is considerably different than the high school experience.
  • Try to take sections of classes that meet three times a week rather than two times. The length of each class will be shorter, placing more reasonable demands on your attention and concentration.
  • Remember that your academic success comes first. Don't sacrifice this to excessive social activities or employment.

Many thousands of students with learning disabilities have succeeded and even excelled in college. By making full use of the accommodations to which you are entitled, and following the suggestions offered in this article, you can be one of them.

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