Transitioning from Churchill to College: What Are My Options?

As high school students begin to think about their post-secondary options, they often consider a slew of common factors. Do I want a big school or a small school? An urban, suburban or rural environment? A liberal arts college or a university? For Churchill students, they have another important element to consider: what type of support will I need to be successful in college?
Coming from Churchill, the thought of transitioning to a college environment can be equally exciting and daunting. Most students have thrived in our small, supportive and differentiated program and often know nothing else. When thinking about options after high school, families are frequently relieved to find out there are many colleges offering significant academic support. With that said, the support available can vary widely from school to school and students and families need to be discerning consumers. In fact, the laws governing students with disabilities change after a person leaves high school. Colleges are required to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which, in short, protects students from discrimination on the basis of their disability and requires colleges to provide “reasonable accommodations.” As you can imagine, this leaves a lot of room for interpretation, so it’s important to note the different levels of post-secondary support available:
1. Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities: The most structured and supportive college option for students with LD.
  • Beacon College
  • Landmark College
2. Comprehensive Academic Support Programs: Structured programs found on mainstream college campuses, which typically include regular meetings with a learning specialist. These programs are often fee-based. Examples include:
  • Curry College – PALS Program
  • Adelphi University – Learning Resources Program
  • University of Arizona – SALT Program
  • Marist College – Learning Support Program
  • American University – Learning Services Program
3. Disability Services: All colleges and universities have an office of disability services, which provides basic accommodations for any students with diagnosed learning disabilities (as well as physical disabilities, hearing and vision impairments, etc.). Common accommodations include:
  • Extended time
  • Separate space for test taking
  • Notetakers
Academic Support Services: Academic support that is available to help all students succeed. Examples include:
  • Peer tutors
  • Writing center
  • Study-skills workshops
Now that you know the different options available, the next step is figuring out how much support a student will actually need. I find that this question isn’t often as simple as it sounds. The supports at Churchill are so seamlessly woven into the fabric of our school, students rarely think about why they are successful here. In order to truly find the best academic fit for college, this is an important question to consider. To get a better sense of what supports a student will actually need, I recommend doing the following:
  • Read the student’s psycho-educational and/or neuropsychological evaluation. A good report will provide a detailed overview of the student’s learning profile, and will include specific recommendations for high school and college.
  • Consider feedback the student has received from teachers and advisors. Are there any themes that consistently come up at parent-teacher conferences? Specifically, think about the student’s self-advocacy and executive functioning skills.
  • Think about the student’s current level of independence. Does he or she have tutors every night? Is the parent constantly reminding students of deadlines and assignments? If the student is getting a lot of help in high school, assume they will need that same level of support in college.
  • Has the student challenged him/herself beyond the standard curriculum? College level classes are an adjustment for all students, however the leap is even greater for a student coming from Churchill. Try out honors classes and enrichment programs to lessen that gap.
I am a strong believer that knowledge is power. So now, armed with more information about the different types of support that may be available, I encourage students and families to go out, visit, research, ask good questions, and become discerning consumers.
Erin Hugger
Director of College Counseling
The Churchill School and Center