Learning Accommodations in College: Who, What, Where, When, Why?
Believe it or not, most high school systems are designed to make sure everyone succeeds. But in college, you will be 100% responsible for your own success. You must learn to become a self-advocate — especially when it comes to accommodations. Sarah Riggs Johnson, learning and behavioral specialist at Tampa Preparatory School, lays it out for you.
Who? You! Especially if you are over 18, Mom or Dad should not be handling this. The student services offices want to hear directly from you as an enrolled student and legal adult.
What? Preparation. Colleges have requirements for accommodations that may be different from your high school. For example, they may ask for diagnostic testing done in the last three to five years — so you might need to schedule that soon. Check if your college’s psychology department offers discounted assessments. You’ll also need previous evaluations, such as IEPs, 504 plans.
Where? Your college’s website. Search for “Accommodations” or “Students with Disabilities,” etc. The name varies. Keep in mind that this office probably handles all types of accessibility issues, from copies of lecture notes to extended time to wheelchair access in lecture halls. Be prepared to be specific and clear about what you need, when you need them, and why.
When? ASAP. The wisest guy I know, my brother, Travis, used accommodations throughout high school but thought he could do without them when he started at FSU. Turns out, they were more helpful in the beginning.
He told me, “I really needed them for my big prerequisites, especially for a 500-person lecture or an online timed test.” Plus, with more and more classes being offered online, you really need to think about what helps you in the digital learning space. It might be different from the brick and mortar lecture hall or discussion group.
Why? It’s the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that every college and university has to serve students who qualify for accommodations. If you are in college, then school is a major life activity for you, and you are entitled to accommodations that help you function (i.e., learn and perform to your potential).
It’s okay to get help. And don’t be shy about asking, either — everyone in college is doing their own thing; you do you. Besides, our brains are as diverse as our bodies. When students speak eloquently about how they learn and advocate for supports that help them thrive, it moves higher education toward more equitable, interesting, user-friendly systems. You can be a voice for yourself, for others like you, and for better teaching and learning.