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4 Ways Diverse Learners Can Prepare for College This Spring

Jennifer Sullivan

Getting an acceptance letter in the mail is just the beginning! Once your students choose their college destination, there is more work to be done. The last months of the school year are the ideal time to prepare students for their upcoming college journey.

Diverse learners, in particular, have a few extra steps to complete to ensure they prepare adequately for their new college experience. Read on to learn my top four tips to prepare diverse learners for college!

1. Contact and Register with the Campus Accessibility Office

In order to receive accommodations in college, students need to visit the Accessibility Office and provide evidence of their learning, medical, mental health or physical disability. Each college has a specific process that students need to follow in order to request disability-related support. If students request residential accommodations such as a single room (for medical reasons) or first-floor dorm room (for mobility and access concerns), they need to register with this office too!

This process typically includes:

  • Completing a registration form
  • Interview with an Accessibility Office staff member
  • Submitting documentation that verifies a disability

It’s easier to start this process as soon as your student accepts admission. The good news is that most (if not all) steps in this process can be completed virtually. Students should have accommodations in place long before the fall semester starts.

2. Find a System for Organization & Time Management

One of the most important skills that ALL students need in college is the ability to manage their free time and daily schedule. If you are "in the driver’s seat" of your student’s day now I suggest gradually starting to transfer responsibility to them. Eventually your student will need to manage all aspects of their day: their wake-up routine, medication management, homework scheduling, extracurricular activities, etc.

Teaching not only skills of independence, but the nuance of how to manage time between and within skills, is a crucial part of college success. Ask your student how they currently manage their free time and if they don’t know, start practicing with different organizational systems to find one that works best for their brain — Google calendar, reminders on the phone, Post-It notes, whiteboard calendars, etc.

3. Identify Helpful Accommodations on Their 504/IEP

Understanding the purpose of their 504/IEP and identifying helpful accommodations included in it are important steps to empowering diverse learners in college. If your student isn’t familiar with the ins and outs of their 504/IEP, it’s okay. This is a great time to start a conversation.

Assist students in identifying accommodations they are currently receiving in high school that are most helpful. Maybe they receive extended time on exams, use 1:1 writing support or use assistive technology. Successful college students reflect on the systems and strategies that help them be successful in high school and then utilize these same strategies in college!

4. Research the College Accessibility Office Website

Students have probably visited a college’s website to search for application information and deadlines, but visiting the Accessibility Office website can provide a wealth of information too!

Students should become familiar with language used on the website such as “disability documentation,” “faculty letter” and “testing/exam accommodations.” Students can also search for other academic services offered at the college or university such as tutoring center, writing center, academic coaching or EF program, study skill workshops, etc.

Some colleges even have a summer bridge program that allows students who register with the Accessibility Office to move into campus early, meet staff and students and get prioritized class registration.

If you would like help navigating and identifying supports at your student’s college, contact Jennifer at Fast Forward College Coaching.

This article was originally shared in Jennifer Sullivan's Fast Forward College Coaching newsletter.

Jennifer Sullivan, M.S. is a private executive functioning coach for high school and college students and the founder of Fast Forward College Coaching. Jennifer lives in southeastern CT and helps students across the country improve their time management and organization skills. Jennifer currently teaches at UCONN in the Neag School of Education. She and her husband are the parents of two teenagers. Find more or her expert advice in her book, Sharing the Transition to College: Words of Advice for Diverse Learners and their Families.
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