Success Strategies for College Students With Learning Disabilities

Young woman studying in university lobby

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College students with learning disabilities can overcome the challenges they face with this list of strategies to help them succeed in their pursuit of higher education.

College is an exciting time in a young adult's life. But along with the regular concerns like finding a good roommate and a safe and affordable place to live, students with learning disabilities must identify ways to thrive in the college environment. Learning their rights in college, developing study strategies and writing skills are among the ways such students can triumph at the university level. 

What Makes College Different for Students With Learning Disabilities

College students with learning disabilities no longer have the support system of evaluation professionals or an Individualized Education Program like they had throughout their K-12 schooling. But college students with learning challenges do have rights under Section 504. In fact, learning these rights and how to advocate for themselves may make a difference between students with learning disabilities excelling in college or failing. 

The specific federal laws that apply to public colleges and universities receiving federal funds, services of the Office for Civil Rights and disability benefits from the Social Security Administration may apply to students with severe learning or sensory disabilities, such as deafness or visual impairments.

Academic Strategies for Success

College can be intimidating for all incoming students but particularly for those with learning disabilities. Students may find the mountains of books they have to read frustrating or find it challenging to interact with certain professors. For any number of reasons, college students may find the university experience overwhelming.

Students with learning disabilities should take action early to prevent negative feelings from getting the better of them.

These strategies can help such students tackle the toughest challenges of academia.

  • Meet with your academic adviser to learn about study resources on your college campus. Ask specifically about tutoring services and writing support available through the college or from private providers in the area. Ask if assistance is available to students with learning disabilities.
  • Get to know the campus disability coordinator. In most cases, your academic advisor or dean of students office can provide you with contact information for the disability coordinator. The coordinator may be able to provide you with resources to help you with academics and advocacy.
  • Learn about the academic ombudsman. The ombudsman may help you negotiate with professors on disability issues in the event a professor discriminates or you are placed in an unfair situation.

Wrapping Up

Students with learning disabilities have resources available beyond college administrators. They can tell professors about their learning disability, find other students with learning disabilities and get tips from them or seek support online by joining a digital support group or finding help with coursework on the Internet.

Students with learning disabilities who experience stress and anxiety about succeeding in college can also consult a psychotherapist about healthful coping mechanisms. 

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  1. U.S. Department of Education. Office for Civil Rights. Protecting Students With Disabilities. Updated January 10, 2020.

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  3. Pedrelli P, Nyer M, Yeung A, Zulauf C, Wilens T. College Students: Mental Health Problems and Treatment ConsiderationsAcad Psychiatry. 2015;39(5):503-511. doi:10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9