College Success for Students with Learning Disorders

ASO Staff Writers
Updated March 29, 2024
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Preparation Advice & Resources for Conquering Learning Challenges at School

Every student learns differently, and those with learning disorders may find the average classroom environment intimidating, especially in college. But with proper accommodations,support and preparation, students with learning disorders can not only find success,but excel in higher education. In 2017, students with learning disorders were three times more likely to drop out of school, but a growing number of advocates and resources are encourages these students to build a love for learning. Get to know some of the common signs of learning disorders below, and get connected with the resources designed to help students with learning disabilities who are preparing for college, including scholarship information and expert advice for achieving academic success.

Learning Disabilities & Student Impacts

Learning disorders can impact learning at a variety of stages, each with specific symptoms and challenges. Learning disorders can interfere with the initial information-gathering stage, information-processing stage, or the information-sharing stage of education. Though no two people experience learning or learning difficulties in the exact same way, below are some common learning disorders with details on how they may affect students academically.

Although the following disorders are not officially classified as learning disabilities, they often occur simultaneously (called “comorbidly”) with learning disorders listed above, and can further impact a student’s learning and academic success

College Prep with a Learning Disability

Both high school seniors and those thinking of returning to school later in life should think about how to find a school that matches their unique needs, plans and personality. Student with learning disabilities may find useful recommendations from groups such as Colleges That Change Lives, but may not always find solutions for their unique learning challenges. Groups like Understood have begun to address this gap in resources, and learning disability educational expert Jim Rein provides even more advice on the methods students with learning disorders can use to find the school that best fits their needs.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Students with Learning Disabilities

College can be prohibitively expensive for many students, so financial aid and scholarships may be vital to a student’s education. There are aggregate lists of scholarships for students with disabilities across the web, including the Understood list of scholarships. Here are a few financial aid opportunities for students with learning disorders:

Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants

Each state has a Vocational Rehabilitation Services office or department that is funded to provide job placement, career counseling and training assistance programs for individuals with disabilities. Grants are provided to each state department and used to fund a variety of services and education programs.

Navigating College with a Learning Disability

In college, structured accommodation plans are not provided as they are for high school students;it is the students’ responsibility to request and coordinate. Accommodations may not be the only tools that can elevate a student with a learning disorder’s educational experience.

Since college is student- not adult-directed it is critical that a student understands their learning challenges and is comfortable with his/her special needs. This will allow the students to take advantage of the resources that are available to them.

Jim Rein

Here are some common challenges that students with learning disorders may face going into college, with resources and solutions to help you successfully navigate.

Learning Disability Support & Campus Resources

ADDitude: A digital and print magazine, ADDitude publishes hundreds of articles about living and succeeding with ADD/ADHD. These articles cover a wide range of subjects, from social situation advice to information about various methods for managing symptoms.

Friends of Quinn: This National Center for Learning Disabilities program works to connect young adults with learning disorders with each other to foster community and peer encouragement.

LDOnline: This website is a massive hub of research and articles about learning disorders and related conditions among students, from preschool to college. Most relevant to the subject at hand is LDOnline’s college preparation landing page-main.

LD Student Blog: A collection of podcasts and articles submitted by college students with learning disorders, whose goal is to help prepare incoming freshmen with learning differences for a variety of college experiences and challenges.

Learning Disabilities Association of America: This organization advocates and supports individuals with learning disabilities. Although the website largely focuses on children with learning disabilities and those who work with them — namely their parents and teachers — there is also an extensive section for adults with learning disorders.

National Center for Learning Disabilities: This organization serves as an umbrella for others also included on this list, such as Understood. NCLD itself focuses on the hard facts around learning disorders like statistics and laws.

Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities: This organization focuses largely on the needs of children (K-12) with learning disorders. However, the group’s resources for college students are very helpful, especially “Strategies for College Success.”

Understood: Understood is an extensive resource for students with learning disorders and their parents. While many of the articles are addressed to parents, students can still find plenty of advice and encouragement. Students should especially visit Nine Steps for Easing the Transition to CollegePros and Cons of Disclosing Learning & Attention Issues at College, and 7 Things to Know about College Disability Services.

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