Looking at colleges is stressful for almost all students, but for those with dyslexia the process can be filled with unique challenges.
Dyslexia, a learning disorder that makes it difficult for students to read easily, is still often misunderstood by many teachers and school administrators.
“Our brains are wired to speak and to learn language,” says Ben Shifrin, head of the Jemicy School in Maryland and an Executive Board member of the International Dyslexia Association. “Reading is something that was created by humans and it is not natural for some people.”
Shifrin, who is dyslexic himself, notes that students with the condition are often very good at seeing the big picture and thinking creatively. Stereotypes about the condition can lead some people to overlook those skills. “A lot of times, people think dyslexics are not bright or not smart,” says Shifrin. “It frustrates me.”
In addition to being the height of college application season, October is also Dyslexia Awareness Month. We talked to Shifrin about the best ways for students with dyslexia to go about evaluating schools.
Ask the important questions
It’s important for dyslexic students to talk to admissions officers about the accommodations they might need if they choose to enroll. “You should say something like, ‘I want to make sure that the university will give me extra time for exams or will allow me to have books on tape,’” says Shifrin. It’s important to note that not all students will need the same things. Shifrin also suggests that each student use their high school experiences as a guide to figure out what would work best.
Talk to your fellow students
Once you meet with the admissions office, high schoolers can also ask if they can be introduced to some currently enrolled students who also have dyslexia. It’s always best to go straight to the source and ask about how they find their classes and general experiences. “I see sometimes when schools promise stuff and it doesn’t happen,” says Shifrin.
Get to know your professors
When students do decide on a college and begin classes, Shifrin urges students with dyslexia to introduce themselves to all of their instructors, even in large lecture classes. Explaining your condition to a professor can often go a long way.
Make a study schedule
Time management is hard for most people in college, and Shifrin says it’s a skill for dyslexics in particular to work on because studying and coursework can take up a considerable amount of time. “One thing former students have told me that works is to literally make a written schedule of each day,” he says. “They can then review what their goals are to accomplish for that day.
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.