After you have researched and explored the options, take some time to consider what kind of post-secondary experience will best reflect your needs and preferences.
Full-time or Part-time Studies
Many students, especially those returning after several years out of school, find that part-time studies are preferable. The amount of studying, assignments and tests required for a full-time course load can put a lot of stress on your physical and mental health. Choosing a realistic course load can make all the difference to your chances of academic success.
To qualify for full-time status, students with disabilities only need to take 40% of a full course load to still be considered for full-time funding.
Part-time status requires 20% to 39% of a full course load. In both cases, you’ll have to supply documentation that you have a learning disability.
A good rule of thumb is to assume a minimum of 3 hours of studying or homework for every 1 hour of class time. If you find reading, writing or studying takes extra time because of your learning disability, you need to factor that in too.
Note: Requirements for full-time and part-time status vary from province to province. If you choose to study part-time and are planning to apply for student financial aid, you will need to be aware of how your part-time status can affect your funding.
Classroom or Distance Learning
Some institutions offer entire programs on-line. You need to decide if you prefer to learn in a classroom atmosphere, on-line, or a combination of the two. Distance learning could be a good choice for the following reasons:
- You would not have to live away from home.
- You can study whenever you want to, and work at the time of day that is best for you.
- You do not have to deal with accessibility issues or crowds.
- Everything is provided in printable format via email or the Internet. This is helpful if you have trouble processing oral information or instructions.
With distance learning, you will have access to instructors and there is often a requirement that you take part in on-line forums or tutorials with others in your course.
Be aware; however, that distance learning requires high levels of motivation and discipline. It works best for those who are comfortable in a self-directed environment. You also need the appropriate requirements for computer hardware, software, and audio conferencing (where students and teachers take part in a single phone call).
Living at Home or Moving Away
You may be thinking about moving away if:
- The program you want is only available in another location.
- You want the independence or the perspective of living on your own.
If you are planning on moving away, think about whether you will live:
- In a student residence or dormitory.
- In a shared apartment or other space.
- On your own.
Residence living is not for everyone. It can help you make social connections, but there is also the stress of:
- Living with a large number of people with diverse personalities.
- You may have to share a room - although it may be possible to arrange for a private room if you are willing to disclose your disability.
- Noise and late night parties can get in the way of studying and sleep. Some institutions may have specified quiet dorms, an option worth checking out.
On the positive side:
- Most residences are directly on campus, which would allow for easy access to the library, computer lab, athletic centres and other campus resources.
- Eliminating travel may eliminate stress and make it easier to get to class, especially morning classes.
Even if you are anxious to leave home, you may want to think about postponing this move until later. The step from high school to post-secondary studies is a big one. While you are adjusting to the change, you may benefit from the kind of support that is available to you at home.
Large or Small Institutions
A large institution can be overwhelming with bigger classes and more anonymity. Some people thrive in this kind of environment, while others prefer smaller institutions. Still others start their post-secondary studies at a smaller institution, like a college, and eventually transfer to a larger setting to complete their program.
Quality of Services for Students with Learning Disabilities
In choosing a college or university, you will want to know how well the institution meets the needs of students with learning disabilities. Many colleges and universities have Disability Services Offices. Some have programs or staff members designated for students with learning disabilities. Smaller institutions may not have a specific disabilities office, but provide services to students with disabilities through counselling, health or mental health services offices.
Transition Planning Guide for Students with Disabilities and Their Families, Alberta Learning. Your Education-Your Future, Canadian Mental Heath Association, www.cmha.ca/youreducation.