Thousands of students with learning disabilities have passed through college disability offices. It is human nature for the office staff to have initial impressions upon meeting new students. It is not unusual, however, for their first impressions to be inaccurate. That is because students who appear most likely to succeed may be missing the critical factor in college success that is present in students who seem less able.
What is this most critical factor? Educational research supports the fact that ATTITUDE is the single most important determinant. Students who are strongly motivated and possess drive are more likely to graduate than unmotivated students, regardless of innate intelligence. What does this mean for students with disabilities who may have had negative experiences in school and arrive at college feeling slightly pessimistic and somewhat defeated?
1. Those students who feel unsure about their abilities WILL OFTEN need academic and/or emotional support. It is important that they make at least ONE connection at college for this purpose, whether it be in the disability office, the Counseling Center, or with an individual professor.
2. Students need to realize that they arrive at college with “clean slates”. This is a new beginning, technically the start of one’s “adult life”. Hopefully, this transition brings a new-found maturity. No one at college is aware of former reputations or work habits, so students have the opportunity to “reinvent” themselves. Community colleges have seen students whose placement scores mandated enrollment in the lowest developmental classes go on to graduate and successfully transfer to four-year institutions.
3. Change does not happen magically. There has to be a conscious effort on the student’s part to do things “differently” this time around if they felt defeated in high school. There is no one correct way; however, if a technique has proven ineffective in the past, the student must be willing to exchange that strategy for one that works. The most successful students are open-minded to learning new techniques and willing to experiment until they discover what works best for them.
4. It’s never too late to change bad habits. Don’t beat yourself up over the past. You can control what happens from this day forward. Resolve to exercise that control and make wise decisions in college.
Remember that ALL students, regardless of determination and intelligence, have highs and lows during any particular semester. No one expects you to be optimistic about conquering every course. However, this is where “attitude” comes into play. Less-determined students often remain passive when they hit a bump in the road; they wallow in their sorrows and spend time feeling sorry for themselves. Motivated students summon up their determination and quickly seek academic or personal guidance to overcome hurdles. Remember, nothing worthwhile is ever easy. College is bound to present obstacles at one time or another. In the end, it is often how you learn to deal with these obstacles that determines your outcome.