Updated: Aug 8, 2022
Preparing for college is a hectic process. It can be difficult to keep track of all the things that need to get done. There are extra barriers for students who are neurodivergent or have a disability. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when preparing for college:
Can I take college courses during high school or in the summer after graduation to ease into things? Are there orientations available to become more familiar with the process of enrollment and graduation requirements? Does my high school have any documentation or information that should be transferred to my college?
What do I want to do for work, based on my personal interests and values, salary goals, and education or training required? Can I participate in service-learning, volunteer work, or a part-time job to help prepare me? How can college support me in pursuing my career?
What type of college do I want to attend? If I go to community college, can I get more individualized instruction from teachers? Or should I go to a four year college and avoid having to transition all over again after two years?
How easy is it for me to navigate the campus? Am I familiar with the geography? How large is the campus? Does the campus have wheelchair access, ramps, toilets, and disabled parking? How accessible are the lecture halls, computer labs, and transportation?
Where do I want to live? If I live at home, how close is the campus? How difficult is it to commute? If I live in a dorm, will I be able to manage sensory concerns like excessive noises, smells, lights, and uncomfortable furniture? If I have a meal plan, is it easy to use and do the dining halls support my food preferences?
Am I confident in taking care of myself, dressing properly, maintaining good hygiene, waking up to an alarm clock, attending class, and using a campus ID? What do I do if I am sick or if there is an emergency?
Can I self-advocate to make sure my needs are met? Am I comfortable disclosing my disability to receive accommodations? What services and support systems are available to me? Can I get medical documentation needed by the college’s disability center? Can I get an accommodation letter from the disability center that explains my needs to professors?
Am I eligible for financial aid or are there grants and scholarships I can apply to? Do I need help with my applications? What are the deadlines?
What should I think about when enrolling in classes? Should I avoid classes that are back-to-back? Are some classes too early for me? How large should my course load be? Can I take more time to complete college if I need it? Can I pre-register for courses? Is there academic advising that can help me choose courses that fulfill my degree requirements? Are there academic supports like study skills training, tutoring, or peer mentorship programs?
Can I benefit from common class accommodations, like recorded and captioned lectures, accessible textbooks and materials? Can I get extra time on a test, a different test-taking environment, or a different format like an oral or computer exam? Will I be able to see and hear my teacher in class? If not, can I get note takers, scribes, or preferential seating? Can I avoid group projects? Is there flexibility in class assignments? Can due dates be extended?
Are there assistive technologies that can help me participate in class? What do I need to do to get them and receive training on their use?
Am I resilient and motivated to overcome challenges? Am I prone to negative emotions like anxiety, loneliness, and sadness? If I experience these emotions, what is my plan to feel better? What are activities or things that help me regulate my emotions? What do I do if a professor or student is ableist? Are there counseling services available to me?
Will my teachers and classmates acknowledge my strengths and support me in my goals? Are my teachers trained to be flexible and provide differentiated learning? Are there plenty of opportunities for me to meet people and make friends?
Adreon, D., & Durocher, J.S. (2007). Evaluating the college transition needs of individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. Intervention of School and Clinic, 42(5), 271-279. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F10534512070420050201
Collins, A., Azmat, F., & Rentschler, R. (2019). “Bringing everyone on the same journey”: Revisiting inclusion in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 44(8), 1475–1487. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2018.1450852
Elias, R., & White, S. W. (2017). Autism goes to college: Understanding the needs of a student population on the rise. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(3), 732–746. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3075-7
Ferguson, R. (2017). If you build it they will come (and persist): Exploring learning accessibility for students with disabilities in the Ontario college system. College Quarterly, 20(3), 1–21. http://search.proquest.com/docview/2011264749/
Gelbar, N., Smith, I.C., & Reichow, B. (2014). Systematic review of articles describing experience and supports of individuals with autism enrolled in college and university programs. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(10), 2593-2601.
Gothberg, J. E., Peterson, L. Y., Peak, M., & Sedaghat, J. M. (2015). Successful transition of students with disabilities to 21st-century college and careers. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 47(6), 344–351. https://doi.org/10.1177/0040059915587890
Janiga, S.J., & Costenbader, V. (2016). The transition from high school to postsecondary education for students with learning disabilities: A survey of college service coordinators. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35(5), 463-470. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F00222194020350050601
Osborne, T. (2019). Not lazy, not faking: teaching and learning experiences of university students with disabilities. Disability & Society, 34(2), 228–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2018.1515724
Roberts, K. D. (2010). Topic areas to consider when planning transition from high school to postsecondary education for students With autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 25(3), 158–162. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088357610371476
Open Minds Silicon Valley provides platforms to elevate the voices of diverse students, professionals, and families. We encourage writing submissions to be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to being in touch about possible feature options.