FROM THE YELLIN CENTER NEWSLETTER - SPRING 2016
Planning for the First Year of College: What Students Need to Know
By Susan Yellin, Esq.
By the time you read this, college acceptances will have arrived and most high school seniors will have made their decisions about where they will be going in the fall. Whether your student has been accepted at his first choice school, or is trying to learn to love a campus further down his list, there are some important steps you should urge him to take now, to make his first year at college more successful and less stressful.
First, as soon as he has sent in a deposit to accept a place, you and your student should discuss whether he needs to arrange disability accommodations. If he had accommodations in high school, such as extended time on exams, or a quiet exam location, you both know that these can be helpful. And they are even more important in a demanding college setting.
We always suggest that students meet with the campus Office of Disability Services when they first tour a school. Whether or not your student has done so, now is the time for him to formally introduce himself to this important office and to officially advise them that he is seeking accommodations. Ideally, he will meet the disability counselor with whom he will be working. He will need to provide documentation of his disability, which should include information on what he will need to successfully access classes, exams, and – if relevant – the dorm and the campus. Together with his counselor, your student should think beyond standard accommodations and consider what else he will need to be successful – what will help “level the playing field” for him as a student. The forms needed to apply for accommodations and information about documentation are generally available on the college’s website.
Hopefully, the documentation to support your student’s request for accommodations will be up to date (usually less than three years old). If not, contact us immediately and we will work to fit him in for an assessment as soon as possible.
The Importance of Pre-Registration
One of the less considered benefits to working with the Office of Disability Services is that many schools allow students who do so to preregister, selecting their classes and schedules ahead of the general student body. This can be an enormous benefit, especially in a large college setting where there are lots of students competing for popular courses or where students need to take courses in sequence, with the initial course given only in the fall or the spring semester. If a student can’t get into a class, it can upend his academic plans for the entire year. Also important is having a professor or instructor whose teaching style is compatible with your student’s learning style. A good disability counselor will know which courses make the most sense for him and which sections or instructors will best meet his needs.
Think About Medication and Medical Issues
Does your student take medication for attention deficit disorder? Is he working with a therapist whose support would be helpful as he begins college? Does he have a physical condition that requires medication or regular visits to a doctor?
Depending on the distance between your home and his school, these circumstances may pose significant issues – or none at all. Most physicians who prescribe medication for attention or anxiety require that their patients meet with them in person at least once every three months. Academic calendars contain many breaks, so this should be doable if your family plans ahead. These breaks should be sufficient to allow your student to schedule appointments for medical conditions as well. He may want to speak to his physician about a local referral or reach out to the campus health service if he has a medical condition that may require emergency or frequent medical attention.
Many therapists will work with their patients via Skype or other technologies. Students vary in how they feel about these sessions; some find them as helpful as face-to-face meetings and others don’t like them at all. It’s worth trying this approach to see if it meets your student’s need to stay connected to this resource. Most campuses have counseling centers, so this may be an alternative if he needs additional support.
Most insurance and drug plans allow or even encourage individuals to fill their prescriptions for three months at a time. The exception is for medications for “controlled substances,” which includes most attention and anxiety medications. These can generally only be filled for one month at a time. You and your student should plan ahead to explore pharmacy options near campus that will allow him to continue getting needed medication without a break.
Finally, remember that medication sitting in the bottle can’t do any good. Work with your student to develop a plan – a reminder on his phone, a white board in his dorm room, a pill case – to keep him on track with needed medication. And remind him that sharing medication with someone else is not only potentially dangerous, but illegal as well. He needs to keep his medication secure.
By planning together and taking a few simple steps, your son or daughter can arrive on campus all set to succeed and with systems in place make the first year of college a positive experience.