Preparing for NCU

College life poses different challenges for students with disabilities. When students enroll in college, they are considered responsible adults by faculty and staff. The expectations are that they will assume responsibilities for meeting their class requirements.

This added responsibility is coupled with a change in environment. Whereas the high school was a very structured environment with a set schedule, college schedules can vary dramatically. For the first time many students may have considerable time between classes and frequently do not use this time wisely. Students must enforce their own attendance policies and prepare to realize personal consequences if they choose not to attend class. For this reason knowing and utilizing the services offered in the Student Success Center is a must, as feeling overwhelmed is very common amongst students who feel they have no support system to help them succeed.

It is very important that students prepare themselves for what college life may bring. Being aware of some of the obstacles that may present throughout the year is one step closer to achieving a successful experience at North Central University. It is our hope that the following guidelines may assist students (and parents) in preparing themselves for the year ahead.

1. Realize that college is important

It is essential to realize the importance of a college education from the very start. Often students arrive on campus with the idea that college is simply the next step in life, that graduation will just arrive, and that a degree will be given. However, this is far from the truth. Success in college is an attitude and a determination to move ahead; it is a place where responsibility shifts from one’s parent to one’s self. This means you will need to prepare diligently because to have a degree from a college is very important in today’s society and job market.

2. Establish a transition plan

Preparation for college begins early, and the sooner you develop a transition plan the greater your chances are of transitioning into the college environment. Begin thinking about what skills and resources you will need in order to function independently. Utilize the resources you have at your current school, or work environment, to assist you in understanding your strengths and your limitations. At an IEP meeting ask the high school staff for their suggestion of which postsecondary option (e.g., technical school, community college, 4-year college or university) would be best for you. Remember to ask about transition activities that would prepare you for college. If you are not entering college straight out of high school, it would be helpful for you to discuss your plans with someone who could help process through the steps you are about to take.

3. Prepare for college

There are several things a student can do to assist in making a smoother transition to college. Those listed here are only a few examples of thing students should do before packing up the car and heading off to the unknown. Above all, it is important to understand what college is and what it will require of you, as college is much different than the high school you are about to leave.

4. Understand admission procedures

Students are encouraged to contact the admissions office and inquire about the services that are available to students with disabilities. Ask the college staff for information that describes the admissions process for students with disabilities, how students must document their disability, and what services that the college offers to students with disabilities. It is also a great time to discuss advanced registration procedures in case this is something you would be interested in making use of.

5. Ensure documentation & testing is current

In order to receive accommodation students are required to supply the necessary documentation stating their diagnosis from a qualified professional. The cost of such testing is borne by the student as North Central provides no testing for students seeking accommodations through the SSC. Documentation should be current - within the past three years for LD, mobility impairment, chronic conditions, and within the past six months for psychiatric or mental health diagnosis. This testing can be done during the senior year of high school but schedule it early. Have these reports, copies of your IEP, and transition plan available for college staff. For a list of psychoeducational assessment locations in the Twin Cities click here.

6. Visit the college

Perhaps one of the best things that can be done as you prepare for North Central, is to visit the college ahead of time. Meeting face to face with the University staff is highly beneficial, as you can have many questions answered during that time. It also allows for you to see if the school will work for your current needs in terms of campus lay out, the accommodations that are available, access to buildings, etc. This is also a great time to register with the SSC, tour the resource center, meet the director, and begin the process of initiating the accommodations you may need for your first day of class.

7. Self disclose early

Unlike high school, the responsibility of identifying a disability falls on the student. Now that you are considered an adult the responsibility to disclose or withhold a disability is your choice. However, with choices come consequences which could result in failing a class should you choose not to access accommodations that you qualify for. The sooner you disclose your disability to the SSC staff who oversees accommodations the better your chances are of having your needs met. Registering with the disabilities office in the SSC can happen at any time during the year. All information that is disclosed is governed by confidentiality laws and regulations and will only be disclosed on a “need-to-know” basis. It is also helpful to the SSC staff for you to know what accommodations work well for you in the past, or adjustments that have been made that have contributed to your success thus far. For more information on accommodations click here.

8. Understand self-advocacy

Another student responsibility is that of self-advocate. Students must become adept at realistically assessing and understanding their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and preferences. Also, they must become experts at communicating this information to other adults including his or her instructors and the SSC staff. Although services will be available to them through the SSC disabilities office, students will be responsible for seeking these services and supports. Good communication skills and knowledge about oneself become crucial to success in college.

Helpful Links:

Differences between high school and college

Rights and Responsibilities

A Handbook for Parents of Students with Disabilities

Going to College: Expanding Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Financial Aid information for students with disabilities