College Search: Services vs. Needs

By Eve Kessler, Esq.


When looking for a college, it’s important to match the types of services needed with the services offered • Typically, colleges offer one of three levels of support

Selecting an appropriate college for students with learning disabilities is vital to success. Because students leave high school with different levels of preparedness and varying abilities, a continuum of support services has emerged. Some colleges offer extensive services, while others provide minimal support. To ensure a good match for your child with LD or ADHD, you must first evaluate his learning style and then find an institution that provides the level of support appropriate for his needs. Following are general guidelines to help focus your search.

Minimum Support

Colleges with minimal support cater to students who received minimal support in high school. In this environment, your child must

  • Be willing and able to advocate for himself
  • Know his strengths and weaknesses
  • Understand the college’s expectations

While recognizing the needs of students with LD and ADHD, and providing adequate adjustments, these schools may not have a structured support program to administer appropriate accommodations.

Moderate Support

Colleges with moderate levels of structured support may offer accommodations that are more sensitive to students with learning challenges. These may include:

  • A Learning Center staffed by a degreed professional
  • A distraction-free environment for testing (usually in a support center)
  • Peer or professional tutors, support groups, and workshops
  • Specialized summer programs
  • Organizational and study skills assistance
  • Help with advocating
Maximum Support

The highest level of support comes from comprehensive, usually fee-based programs that provide support until a student feels comfortable assuming full responsibility for his own program. Colleges with these programs may offer:

  • Separate programs for students with LD
  • A full-time director with trained staff that may help with the admissions process, communicating with professors, identifying individual needs, advocating for accommodations, and monitoring student performance
  • Distraction-free environments for tests in a support center
  • Professional tutors, support groups, self-advocacy and social skills groups
  • Tutoring in organizational and time-management skills

This level of support is appropriate if your child completed high school within the general education classroom but relied heavily on the resource teacher for direction and support. He may have difficulty self-advocating and completing high school requirements. A summer transition program offered on campus could be helpful to communicate academic and social expectations and acquaint your child with available support services, as well as the town-and-gown environment.

Once you establish the level of support your child needs, the next logical step is to access college guides for students with learning differences to begin the matching process in earnest.

This article is based on information presented by educational consultant Daria Rockholz, Ph.D., at an event sponsored by SPED*NET, Special Education Network of Wilton (CT). Eve Kessler, Esq., a criminal appellate attorney, is the co-founder of SPED*NET, and a Contributing Editor for Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.

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