A Call for Help May Be The Secret To College Success
Why is asking for help so hard? The expectations of college are much different from high school. Students are in class less often and are expected to study independently. There are no parents around reminding them to do their work or get a head start on the paper.
This is a particular challenge for students who have relied on tutors, a learning center or other academic resources during high school. For students with learning differences, organizational or other challenges, the need for support will continue in college. Some students wish it would all go away and they resist using resources once they arrive on campus, a big mistake.
“It doesn’t magically change once you go to college,” said Kathy Duggan, Ph.D., director of support services at The Connors Family Learning Center at Boston College. Kathy emphasizes the importance of submitting required testing to be eligible for accommodations right from the start.
“Get everything in place, then we can put a plan into action quickly.”
Academic support centers such as The Connors Family Learning Center provide tutoring, academic coaches, and more. The Connors Center also offers role modeling with students to help them practice self-advocacy skills.
According to Kathy, what typically happens is that students think they can forego support so they don’t even register with the office. Then by mid-October, students realize they need help. Maybe they cannot finish a test without extended time or are struggling with college-level writing.
Beyond getting off to a weak start academically, waiting until the semester is underway can create further problems for the student.
“If everyone waits till October to register with our office, they will have to wait a few more weeks before we can get to them,” said Kathy.
What is the parent’s role in all this?
“Parents should trust that they have done their job,” said Kathy. “We are happy to meet with parents to share our recommendations and explain resources, but then they need to let their kids take over the reins.”
Another reason students sometimes do not seek help is that they felt stigmatized during high school if they used a resource room or other support, and felt exposed because everyone knew.
“There isn’t a stigma of having a disability at BC or at most any college,” said Kathy. “The Connors Center serves all students on campus. Half of the freshmen class uses the resources of the center. If a student has a learning disability, no one else would know that.”
Students with executive function (planning, organizing, prioritizing, managing time and space) challenges face special difficulties if they have not developed strategies prior to college.
“College will be difficult,” said Kathy. “Every course will have a syllabus which is like a map or plan for the entire semester, yet some students will just throw it in the bottom of their backpack.”
BC offers a coach to meet once a week with such students to plan and organize each course for the semester. Regardless of where students are heading to college, they may benefit from working with a coach over the summer prior to college to improve their skills.
A great resource for students is: Seven Steps to College Success: A Pathway for Students with Disabilities, 3rd Edition by Elizabeth C. Hamblet, out February 2023.