Whether an individual’s special needs are physical, mental or psychological, they can run into many challenges when it comes to finding the right college. Depending on their disability, finding a college with the appropriate accommodations can be an overwhelming experience. It is possible for a student with special needs to feel stressed about certain things that other students may have an easier time achieving; like making it to class on time, navigating the hallways or maintaining good grades.
As someone who has a relationship with a student with special needs, it’s important to be as helpful as possible in creating a successful plan for their academic future. The more knowledge you obtain about the campus structure, academic programs and student life, the more comfortable the student will be and the more confidence they will have in the reliability of the university. If you plan on discussing college with a special needs student, learn more about the process by reading these tips.
- Make an appointment with a counselor
Counselors are professionally trained individuals who deliver advice to people seeking additional guidance. Whether it’s a social, emotional or situational concern, a counselor can help a special-needs student determine a proper plan for college success. A high school special needs counselor has the power to communicate with the faculty and administration at a college. They can review information about proximity, academic services, transportation, student housing and supporting services they offer. Knowing all of the options can be beneficial for the student when decision day comes, so they have more confidence in choosing the appropriate school for their needs.
- Have the college talk
If a special needs student is thinking about his or her decision to attend college, it is vital to have an important conversation about the protocol. Gaining initial insight from the student to define where their mind is at is essential in starting the college application process. Does the student seem motivated, capable and willing to try their best to succeed? Are there schools who can accommodate their requests and needs? Be honest with the student and take their opinions into consideration to gain a clear understanding of the possibility.
- Always be encouraging
Supporting a special needs student while he or she prepares for college involves providing continuous positivity and encouragement. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, family friend or sibling, reassuring their capabilities and accomplishments thus far are great motivational reminders that can turn any doubt into an ultimate confidence boost. Graduating high school is a big accomplishment for anyone, especially a special needs student, so make sure to appreciate that achievement itself before turning to the challenges of college.
- Discuss the finance options
Unfortunately, attending college usually means that an accumulation of debt is to follow. In knowing this, it’s important to put together a financial estimate— tuition costs, scholarship opportunities, student loan refinancing options and the cost of living, like rent, food and textbooks. Be open with the student about their current financial status and research a variety of scholarship opportunities. See if they are able to qualify for financial assistance or scholarships that aid in the cost of college.
- Talk about the testing required for college
When it comes to the standard college application process, there are specific requirements to take into consideration that lead to receiving that acceptance letter. The SAT and ACT tests, for example, are mandatory exams for many universities that provide a representation of the student’s vocabulary, math and reading skills. Some colleges look at these test scores to evaluate your readiness for a college curriculum as well. When acknowledging special needs on college applications, or when requesting certain accommodations, the SAT and ACT must oblige requests such as extended exam time, using a laptop, extended break times and exam presentation, like the use of Braille or a larger font for example.
- Always tour the campus
Before making any final decisions, schedule an appointment with a college advisor or tour guide. This will give the student the opportunity to navigate and learn more about the campus. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the college’s disability services and what they can accommodate. If the special needs student relies on a counselor frequently, ensure they have that guidance available on campus and ask if it would be possible to meet them while you’re touring. Visiting a college campus can make the student feel less overwhelmed when it comes time to move away from home.
- Mention expected proximities from home
The distance between campus and your home is something that should never be overlooked. When it comes to making a college decision, it is important to evaluate the needs of the student regarding their reliance on family or friends. If a parent is a reliable source of the student’s well-being, medications, appointments, etc. it might be worth it to learn more about a college’s commuting policy. If the student believes he or she can live independently on campus, discuss this possibility with them before scheduling any campus tours or filling out an application. Sometimes touring before knowing whether or not you can commute from home can result in the student loving the university, but having to decline the chance to attend. Have a strong understanding of the college’s rules and regulations to avoid any type of discouragement.
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