College Student focused on studying

How to Adjust a Learning Challenged Student’s Study Habits and Curriculum to College

The transition into college can be challenging for any student. It often comes with anxiety, worry, and fear of the unknown. Yet for students who have learning disabilities, this transition can be exponentially difficult. Help your child with learning challenges transition into college with the ideas detailed below.

Choose Interesting Classes

Your child should look at the course options at their school and select classes on topics they are interested in. If they like stars, they may want to take a class on astronomy. If they enjoy writing, a class on poetry or fiction may be a good one to choose. Some students may even benefit from a reduced course load at the start of college so they don’t feel overwhelmed with work and deadlines. They may want to take fewer classes at once and spread out their courses over a longer period of time.  


Creating a well-organized schedule is key for success in college. Once your child has selected their classes, they should organize their schedule using a physical or virtual assignment book. In the assignment book, they should block out their courses so they know exactly when they need to be in class. They should also write in any upcoming assignments and tests, and even carve out study time. If they have a math exam on Friday, for instance, they might want to block out two hours per day, say 4-6pm, Monday-Thursday to spend time studying for the exam.

Study Smart!

Your child should learn effective study skills to help them excel in college. Taking notes is a big part of college classes, so they may want to identify what kind of learner they are (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and then use the style of note taking that is most suitable for them. For instance, if they are a visual learner, they may want to use a webbing style of note taking, where they draw a large circle in the center of their page and write the topic of the lecture inside it (like “World War I” ). Then as the teacher lectures, your child should add branches to the bubble with each new topic. If the first topic is “Causes of Word War I”, they can draw a line from the middle bubble to a new bubble and write “Causes of World War I” in the new bubble. Then they can create branches and new bubbles for information on the causes of World War I, and so on. If your child is a more linear learner, then outlining or a column-style form of note taking (with main ideas in the left column of a page and notes that correspond to each main idea on the right side) may be more appropriate. Your child can also work on highlighting important, salient details when reading and learning mnemonics and other tricks for memorizing facts.

Seek Accommodations

Colleges are required by law to provide accommodations to students with disabilities. Take action early to seek these accommodations so that your child has them in place before their classes start. They may qualify for early registration, untimed testing, priority seating in class, recordings of class notes, the use of a calculator, audio books, or other accommodations that may help them excel at school.

Seek a Tutor

If your child is still struggling to navigate college alone, hiring a tutor may help. This tutor can help your child select appropriate courses and create an organized schedule for tackling these courses. The tutor can also help your child build stronger executive functioning skills and explain any content within the courses that might be confusing.

College can feel overwhelming to just about any student. Yet most colleges have a multitude of resources for students with learning disabilities. Encourage your child to try these ideas and they will be well on their way to academic success. 

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