What steps should I take as a dyslexic student to prepare for college?

I don't yet know what college I'm going to attend, but what should I do to make sure I have the resources I need to do well? Do I need to notify all of my professors at the beginning of every semester?


Jamie Martin, Assistive Technology Consultant for Students and Adults with Dyslexia

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Kudos to you for thinking ahead and taking the time to prepare for life after high school! There are three main things you can do now as you are preparing to go off to college as a student with dyslexia:

1) If you have not already, familiarize yourself with assistive technology and learn what kinds of tools will help you compensate for your specific language difficulties. While you should be able to receive necessary accommodations in college (like extended time for exams), the amount of reading and writing will likely increase from what you are used to in high school. Text-to-speech technology or audio books may be helpful to get through large amounts of reading, and dictation technology may help you complete papers and reports in a timely manner and to the best of your ability.

2) Become comfortable talking about your dyslexia and practice advocating for yourself. If you have an IEP in high school, it won't travel with you to college. Your right to an appropriate education will still be protected by the law, but by and large, you will be responsible to seek out accommodations yourself. It will be a great idea to speak to all of your professors at the beginning of each semester so that they understand what you will need to be successful in their classes. Also, take some time to go over each syllabus at the beginning of the semester to make sure you will be able to receive all course materials (textbooks, supplemental readings, etc.) in accessible formats (electronic texts, recorded books, etc.).

3) While considering specific colleges, seek out each school's Office of Support Services and find out how helpful they will be to you as a dyslexic student. Let them know what accommodations have helped you be successful in high school, and find out if the same or similar accommodations will be available to you at their school. Taking the time to gather this information during the application process will help you find a college that will be able to meet your needs.

For more information on making the transition from high school to college, you can check out this book:

7 Steps for Success: High School to College Transition Strategies for Students with Disabilities

Best of luck as you continue your education!

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Dave Nguyen, Education Consultant, College Lecturer, PhD

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Universities will make accommodations for students with learning disabilities. These accommodations include longer times for tests, larger size font for tests, private rooms that are free of distraction, an a free note-taking service that relieves the burden off of the student to take down all notes during class. Each university may vary in how many services it offers, so you should check with a school ahead of time before deciding on whether to attend it for college.

Tiffany Sunday, Tiffany Sunday - Dyslexic - Author - Entrepreneur

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Combined with Jamie's suggestions, I would add study and organizational strategies.

1) Understanding how your dyslexic brain works is half the battle. I did not learn how to effectively study until a sophomore in high school. Listening to lectures, writing my notes, using note cards to write down key points, or creating silly phrases to remember complex information were a couple of strategies I developed.

2) Strategically plan your classes. First, I alternated classes strength and difficult classes. For example, start your day with a class that is in your area of strength and interest, then schedule a more difficult class, then followed by another strength class. If possible, avoid scheduling multiple difficult classes back-to-back. During mid-terms or finals, you could have multiple tests back-to-back. Another factor to consider is when you are most alert mornings or afternoons.

Review the class schedule online to see if the university or college has posted the dates for semester finals. Most of this information is now online and is generally listed on the school's calendar. I learned quickly to look at the end of the semester to avoid having three difficult finals on the same day!

3) Develop an organizational system that works best with your dyslexia. This system can be a hybrid between old school and technology. Developing good organizational habits is important from how to keep class notes and materials organized to keeping your personal items organized and visible in your dorm room or apartment.

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