For college students with learning differences, registering for classes can be a critical factor in success. Students who choose their own classes may end up with course loads that are overly-heavy or unbalanced. Some students register with college-at-large advisors, who are unaware of the presence of learning differences and have no knowledge of the students’ learning style(s).
Course registration should be done with caution for students with learning disabilities, so they are set up to succeed prior to even entering the classroom. A well-balanced schedule, built around one’s biological clock, with engaging professors who teach in a multi-modal fashion, goes a long way toward facilitating focus and minimizing stress.
Here are eight tips to remember when registering for classes:
- Listen for recommendations from fellow students regarding interesting professors and/or courses. Then, seek further information to decide whether these courses will work for you.
- Does your college offer priority registration to students with disabilities? In other words, are you allowed to choose classes before your classmates do in order to get instructors/sections compatible with your learning style? If so, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!
- Look at your proposed area of study in the paper or online catalog (Note: In the interests of going “green”, many colleges are discontinuing paper catalogs.) Check the options you have within your major. If you are undecided about your future career goals, you are not unusual. Majoring in Liberal Arts is fine; it is a highly regarded major that offers the opportunity to sample different disciplines to see what appeals to you.
- List the courses that both attract you and fulfill the requirements of your major. Eliminate courses with prerequisites you haven’t taken.
- Decide which time of day you are most alert. That’s when you should be in class. From the above list, choose courses that meet at that time. Write down sections/teachers you would prefer.
- Now, get more specific. Divide your classes so that the more challenging ones meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the easier ones meet Tuesday and Thursday. It is easier to sit through three 55-minute sessions of a difficult course than two 90-minutes sessions.
- OF PRIME IMPORTANCE – Take your proposed schedule to the Disability Services Office and see a professional who is familiar with you and your learning style. Go over all options on your list, and an advisor/Learning Specialist will help you narrow down your choices and select professors best suited to you.*
- Register ASAP to be sure to get the schedule you want.
* How many credits should you take?
This is an individual decision. However, for college freshmen who received academic assistance in high school, a full course load represents a large increase in the amount of work to which these students are accustomed and a pace that is more than twice as fast; it is almost always overwhelming. Students are likely to feel as though they have jumped into a 12-foot pool of ice water.
This is exactly how students begin a downward spiral and begin to doubt their ability to handle college. If only they had started slowly and built their confidence before handling so many credits!
Err on the side of caution. For some students, two courses — math and English – can be considered a full-time load. As soon as you master a reduced load, speak to your advisor about taking an additional class the following semester. Dip your feet slowly. It is far wiser to set yourself up for success with fewer credits and build gradually as you become accustomed to the college system.** You will likely earn a higher GPA (grade point average), feel empowered, and become enthusiastic about college!
** How can you stay on your parents’ insurance plan with a reduced course load? The coordinator of Disability Services can write a letter for parents to submit to their insurance company stating that “Jane Doe, a student at __________College, is considered full-time with (___) credits due to a learning disability.” This letter should not be submitted until the insurance company requests it. It is rare for an insurance company to deny this request, but if this exclusion is written into your policy, there is a surreptitious way students circumvent it. They simply register for a full course load, and during the first week of the semester, when they are still eligible for a 100% tuition refund, they drop a course or two. When the insurance company requests the student’s schedule to confirm full-time status, the parents submit the original roster. Please note – this is not an endorsement of that tactic!
© 2007 Joan Azarva