Graduating From High School – How to Make the Transition to College Life

Transitioning from high school to college can be a scary proposition. Many students come from small, rural schools and might be shocked by the size of larger state colleges and universities. Classes meet less regularly in college than in high school, and some students might be tempted to slack off. There are many differences between the two educational levels, and new high school graduates should know about these differences before starting school in the fall to make the transition as smooth as possible.

1. You Are not Likely to Be the Big Man On Campus

High school tends to have a number of popular cliques that tend to make life miserable for those who are outside the mainstream. In college, most of the former jocks will be just ordinary students. There are cliques, known as fraternities and sororities, but at many schools, not belonging to a fraternity is no big deal. Those who were big men or women on campus will likely just be a small fish in a big pond in college. Professors will be impressed with people who can bring something to the table in class.

2. Use College as an Opportunity to Learn on the Job

Most people think that college is a time to learn about one’s inner person and expand worldviews. This can definitely be the case, but it is not impossible to get valuable real world experience at the same time. Many schools have connections that can lead to co-op jobs or internships during the summer. These summer opportunities can then be used to gain experience for life after college. Those who are really fortunate might even get hired by the company that sponsored their internship.

3. Classes Meet Less Often

Most high school classes meet on a daily basis, and students are in school every day from around 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. This totally changes in college. Students can expect to meet exactly 2.5 hours each week for a class that will give the standard 3 credit hours. These classes will usually meet for 50 minutes on three days a week or 1 hour and 15 minutes on two days of the week. Because the average course load for a student is around 12-15 credit hours, many students will find themselves with much more in the way of free time. This does not mean that video games and daytime TV talk shows should take up this extra time. Studying and research will be a much better investment in terms of time.

4. College Takes Money

Unless they are fortunate enough to get a full ride to college, many students will experience a bit of sticker shock. Most high school students go to schools that are taxpayer funded. Even those who go to private high schools will usually have their parents pay their way. This will be a big change for many new college students. There will be the temptation to borrow everything needed. A much better route would be taking a part-time job to pay for as much of college as possible. Those who party through school will owe, while those who work will be in a better financial standing.

College is definitely a major shift for those who are new high school graduates. With proper planning, the transition can be much less painless than it might otherwise be.

Learning Disabilities – 18 Critical Factors For Successful Post-Secondary Transition

Since students with learning disabilities are at greater risk in college, they need to allow adequate time to set themselves up for post-secondary success now. Keeping the eighteen factors below in mind increases the likelihood that transition from high school to college will be as seamless as possible.

1. To start your college search, make a list of desirable qualities in a school (i.e., commuter/residential, size, location, etc.) Start your search on the internet then begin college visitations. Allow your parents to narrow down your list to their acceptable choices. Then, once you see where you are accepted, you know those schools are all “parent-approved”.

2. Perseverance is the single most important factor in college success. Tied for second are the ability to delay gratification (i.e., saying “no” when your friends are going out, but you really should study) and an organizational system that works for you. The sooner you work on these three things, the easier college will be.

3. In college, you are a legal adult and need to articulate your disability on your own. Self-advocacy goes hand-in-hand with this; it is critical in getting your needs met in college.

4. If you are serious about a school, ask to meet a successful student from Disability Services. Before making your final choice, ask about spending an overnight with that student. You will get a better sense of whether or not you would feel comfortable at that college.

5. FERPA – The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a Federal law that protects the privacy of students’ educational records. However, keep this in mind: your parents’ support has helped get you to where you are today. Considering they are footing the bill, it is not unreasonable for parents to want to be kept in the loop. “LD-friendly” colleges allow you to sign a FERPA waiver.

6. The director of Disability Services sets the tone for the entire department. If you find this person off-putting, think twice about whether you would feel comfortable at the college.

7. If your documentation is older than 3 years, it should be updated. Make sure the list of recommendations at the end of the documentation includes critical items for your success. (Of course, they must be supported by the testing.)

8. Start exploring technologies you have never used but might help level the playing field for you. You can get an idea of different technologies when you visit the Disability Services offices at different colleges.

PROCEDURE FOR GETTING ACCOMMODATIONS

9. You and your parents should meet with the director of Disability Services as soon as you are admitted. Bring your documentation with you. IEPS are not of value in college.

10. The director will review your documentation and subsequently meet with you to discuss accommodations to be included in letters to your teachers. An accommodation you should strongly consider requesting is a reduced course load – at least for the first semester. Students can be considered full-time with as few as 6 credits, depending on the amount of work they can handle. Ask the director to write a letter for your parents’ insurance company explaining your full-time status with a reduced load, but do not submit the letter until it is requested.

11. Check back with the Disability Office at the start of school to pick up your accommodation letters. You need to deliver a letter to each instructor to whom you are disclosing. Find a private moment before or after class to do this, or make an office-hour appointment with your instructor, so you can maintain your privacy. This meeting is a good opportunity to introduce yourself and explain your needs to your professors.

12. The process of requesting, picking up, and delivering letters must be repeated each semester. If you need a change in accommodations, discuss this with the director of Disability Services.

CHOOSING CLASSES

13. Initial class selection is based on the result of college placement exams which all freshmen take. Remember that most colleges ban the use of calculators for the math exam. You should go in prepared to do all calculations the old-fashioned way. That means extensive practice until this comes naturally again.

14. Your schedule should be balanced between challenging courses and easier ones. Take the challenging classes three times a week, not two.

15. Classes should be hand-selected by someone in the Disability Services office who knows your learning style and the instructors who suit you best.

16. Keep your ears open to friend’s recommendations of engaging professors – but make sure they suit your learning style before enrolling.

TUTORING

17. For most incoming freshmen, tutoring three times a week is recommended to get off to a good strong start. Consider tutoring empowering; the more help you have initially, the sooner you’ll feel confident in your abilities.

18. As you become stronger and meta-cognitive (the state of learning how to learn), your Learning Specialist may suggest you gradually reduce tutoring. Some students may eventually be able to access tutoring on an as-needed basis, rather than by standing appointment.

©2007 Joan Azarva