Over the last few years, I have opened up more about my learning disability and my experience in school. The biggest challenge I encountered with my LD was in university. I went to school for three years before I finally got help and the support I needed. Why did it take so long? I knew I had a learning disability, but I did not know I was entitled to support for my learning disability in university. In fact, there was a lot of information I was unaware of. Making my real handicap, lack of knowledge. When we don’t know something, we are more vulnerable to the change. Unaware of what I was entitled to, I was not advocating for myself and my needs. This time of year many secondary students are starting to think of what to study and where to attend post-secondary next September. To help you make this a smoother transition, I am sharing tips to help students make the final decision.
Building Your Brand
Schools are a business, and students need to be in business for themselves. The schools you chose to apply and the one you will attend should be the place of study that fits your needs and help you achieve your goal. It is important to choose a program and school that is best for you. At the end of the day, you will be the person putting in the hours of hard work, attending lectures and writing exams, therefore you want to be happy. Select a school that has a program that fits your needs, desires and lead you towards a career path that interest you. Do you want to do co-op program, bachelor's or honours program? Do you want to study in the city, province our country? Perhaps doing a semester abroad interest you? These are critical questions to ask yourself to help you in your decisions. Every school is different in what they offer, do not base your decision solely on school reputation or the influences of others. Your studies are helping you to build your brand, so you can sell yourself in the future. Therefore select a school that helps you achieve your goals and not the other way around.
Get A Feel For the Campus
Pictures can say a thousand words, but they can also be deceiving, Invest in the time and take a campus tour. Schools are always willing to give prospective students a tour of the campus. Get a feel for the lecture halls, student centre, dorm rooms and even the library. Campus tours are also the perfect time to ask the questions and visit specific departments for more information not always outline in brochures. i.e. The Student Disability Service Centre. Even consider exploring the campus on your own and asking students their opinions of the school. Do not be shy, many students are always happy and willing to give you the truth. As you walk around the campus, ask yourself do I see myself here? Can I walk this campus every day and be happy?
Understand Your Needs
Knowing and understanding your needs is fundamental. Not all disabilities are visible. By law schools are to provide accommodations and support for students with disabilities. In order to get access to those resources, you need to understand what it is you need exactly. In post-secondary, you are your own advocate. Unless there is a specific circumstance by law once your eighteen schools view students as an adult therefore no one else can advocate your needs for you. (Even mom and dad have no power at this point) Disabled or non-disabled, many students are unaware of the services and programs they have access to. I.e. counselling, writing centers, research workshops etc. Depending on the situation and students needs this may mean, writing exams in private rooms, access to computers for all exams, or extensions on submitting assignments. Individual Education Plans (IEP) do not follow students to post-secondary, make sure you and the school knows your needs. Make sure the school is able to accommodate you and your needs. Don’t be shy about it either, stand up for your rights.
After high school, life takes people in different directions. There is no need to follow the crowd. This is the time in your life when you also have the option not to go to school. You can take a leap year, or even do an apprenticeship. This decision is up to you, just make sure you follow your heart and are happy doing whatever you chose to do after high school.
At the end of the day, this is your journey and you are the captain, make sure the decision is one hundred percent yours. You are not a lone on this journey, together there is #NoLimits to what you can achieve.