November 23, 2020
If your college search includes interviewing with likely choices virtually or in person, consider this a cautionary tale from a college student with LD who wishes to remain anonymous.
My doctor tells a funny story about her medical training. When patients ask a new doctor how many times they have performed a certain procedure, instead of saying, “Only once,” the new docs are supposed to say, “In my experience…” If they’ve performed the procedure three times, then they say, “Time, and time, and time again.” Putting a positive spin on their inexperience comforts the patients and allows the young doctors to continue their training.
The same thing happened to me when I brought my educational evaluation to an informational meeting with the college that I ended up attending. I was spun. I was so reassured by the comforting tone of the vague answers that I didn’t ask for more specifics.
If I had dug deeper that day, I would have crossed this college off the list and kept looking.
Unraveling the spin, here are some of the specifics of that meeting. I’m including the follow-up questions that I should have asked, and the valuable, decision-changing information I would have gained if I had asked the right questions. The moral of the story is….ask for specific information and don’t accept a superficial answer!
Me: Do you work with LD students at your college?
Them: Yes, we are very dedicated to supporting our LD students.
Shoulda: How many LD students are currently enrolled?
Woulda: Very, very few. Our faculty and staff have no training in working with LD students.
Me: How does the accommodation process work? What kinds of accommodations are typically provided?
Them: Students submit their testing documentation and we will work to provide them with all needed accommodations.
Shoulda: Give me an example of a dyslexic student like me and what specific accommodations he or she is currently receiving.
Woulda: We don’t really have any dyslexic students like you currently enrolled, so I cannot give you any more details.
Me: Who is the person I will be working with to obtain accommodations?
Them: A dean in the Student Services office will work with you.
Shoulda: A dean? That is a very high-ranking position. What is their experience/background in working with LD students?
Woulda: We have future plans to build an LD support center on campus in the next few years. Until then, you will be assigned to an interim dean who has no training or experience in working with LD students.
Me: Do the faculty work well with the needs of LD students? (Yes or No question = bad idea! Ask for specifics.)
Them: Yes. We have very small class sizes and the teachers are always available after class for help.
Shoulda: Does your staff have any training or in-service related to the challenges that LD students like me face on a daily basis?
Woulda: No. Our staff are very well-meaning and willing to meet with students, but because they don’t understand LD issues, they will tell you that you are using your LD as an “excuse” when you come to them with problems.
So, here I am. Struggling at a highly ranked university. Can I make this work? I still don’t know, but I’m hoping I can.