6 Tips for Students with Learning Differences in College

By March 5, 2019College

We all learn differently.  Thanks to Howard Gardner’s book ‘Frames of Mind the Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983), colleges know this too. Every student, whatever may be their strengths or weaknesses, has an equal opportunity to succeed in college.   There are many colleges that provide an environment for students who may have various learning differences. When students make use of the many resources that are available to them, they discover they are able to excel in college regardless of the diagnosis that they enroll with.

Having success in College for students with a diagnosed learning disability, however, requires more than getting accepted. There are many differences between having succeeded in High School and what will be required in order to find their way in college.

Additionally, It is important that students, prior to heading to college, to be prepared with basic living skills.  The ability to manage money, prepare a meal, do laundry, and have good hygiene are among the necessities of self-management and being away from home.  Without a solid base of executive functioning ability, the potential of adapting to college living as well as the academics can be extremely difficult.

Here are our top six suggestions that will yield success in college:

1.      Understand Yourself We believe, first and foremost, the student must be able to understand their diagnosis and be able to articulate the specifics of their strengths, limitations and needs.  Those who know themselves and are effective in their self-advocacy are more likely to transition comfortably.

2.     Make Yourself Known Students should immediately register with the office or department that is responsible for disability support and special needs services.  Many schools offer tutors, classroom support and any number of counseling services. The most conscientious students will take advantage of all that is made available and those that do are far more likely to graduate.  Asking for help is a significant life skill that far too few are willing to accept.

3.     Advocate For Yourself Unlike the IEP that a student may have had in High School, college students will need to know what are those “reasonable accommodations” to which they may be legally entitled and incorporate whatever technology and learning aids which will allow them to maximize their individual learning methods.  Students should be comfortable in asking their counselor/advisor if they are unsure.

4.     Set Yourself Up for Success Entering students, recognizing that they are entitled to “early registration,”need to be sure they have communicated early enough with the support program at their college in order to have this option. Many times a professional in this  program can help a student pick the classes and when able, the professor who may best meet their style of learning. It is best to defer any class that might be academically challenging taking right away. It is advisable, as well, for students to enroll in a lighter course load in their first semester and to be mindful of the time of day the course is being taught.

5.     Use Office Hours We encourage students to take advantage of any special or extra sessions being offered by their professors or their graduate student teaching assistants.  It is appropriate for students to inform Professors and other faculty of their disability and their specific needs.

6.     Parents …. Let go.  You’ve done your part getting your child to this point.  Your new role is being a sensitive listener. The college experience goes well beyond academics. Now is the time for your college student to accept the full opportunity to learn independence.  We say that Parents should graduate High School when their teens graduates. It should be their student that continues on.


During this difficult time, we are here for you, as we always have been, to help consider safe, educational and therapeutic opportunities for your adolescent/young adult.