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Going It Alone in College: Is Your Teen Ready to Go It Alone in College?

Does Your Teen Need Accommodations in College?


Updated May 27, 2011

A College Student Sitting in Class

Alone with a Disability in College

Is your teenager determined to go it alone in college? Is he fed up with special education? Is he tired of feeling different from everyone else? If so, you're not alone. By middle school, many teens with disabilities have become painfully aware of their differences from other children. Along with concerns about looks, acne, and dealing with the opposite sex, teens with disabilities worry about the stigma of their learning differences and want more than anything to just be like everyone else. That can lead many teens to want to go to college without any kind of academic support. While a few students with disabilities transition into college without support and make it, they are the exception. Others who go it alone fail and are left without a degree and possibly a large amount of debt. Here are things your child must know before deciding to go it alone in college:
  • About 40% of students with disabilities enter college or vocational school. If your teen has a disability and chooses to enroll in postsecondary education and is accepted into a college or vocational school, he is a member of a minority. He made it this far because of his own hard work and the support of dedicated parents and educators. For him, the system worked. Why go it alone in college and risk failure when he has already experienced such success?
  • College will be harder than high school. The volume of work will increase. That means multiple reading, writing, and math assignments with less time to finish them. If your teen already struggles with meeting deadlines or getting work done on time, now is not the time to go it alone in college.
  • Classes are typically larger in college. More than likely, your teen will have larger classes than in high school. This means that the student /teacher ratio could jump from about 1 teacher to 30 students to 1 teacher to 100 students or more for a given class. While most college instructors have office hours available to work with students, the instructors simply will not have the time to give the individual assistance that high school teachers could provide.
  • Many college instructors grade your work on a curve system. A curve system is a very different way of grading than what is commonly used in high school. In a curve system, your grades are calculated relative to the overall performance of the whole class. In high school, it was usually only important to study. In college, it becomes necessary to study and to try to perform at least as well or better than most other students in the class.
  • Help is available in college for all students because it is needed. Most colleges have centers where all students can get tutoring, assistance writing papers, and assistance with studying for tests. Both students with disabilities and those without disabilities need this assistance from time to time. If you get help, your teen will not be the only student doing so. Further, with non-disabled students getting help as well, your student will not be stigmatized for getting the help.
  • Most colleges have confidential disability resource centers. Most colleges operate disability resource centers where your teen can get additional supports that are directly related to his or her disability. Disability Resource Centers can offer services such as confidential note-taking services, testing accommodations such as extended time or testing in a quiet, private area, or use of assistive technology such as text readers. The services are available at no cost to your teen if she has a disability and demonstrates a need for the particular services.
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