The Importance of College Counseling ServicesMarch 13th, 2012 by admin
Most freshmen enter college having considered their school’s reputation, facilities, majors, faculty, and maybe even the menu at the cafeteria. One thing that’s often overlooked is the schools’ disability services.
The quality of counseling services can vary from one university to another. In the worst case scenario, some students may find that they are handed a number and told to get in line, overlooked by counselors who have a one-size-fits-all approach.
It is crucial for students with the ADD/ADHD brain type identify the academic and personal support offered to them at college immediately, instead of waiting for an emergency. Common options include individualized learning, regular meetings, time-management and study workshops. The best programs aim to teach independence and self-advocacy skills.
Three colleges stand out as leaders in the field of student services. They have all based their ADD/ADHD student services on the importance of individualized attention. By valuing the individual, these administrators help students grow into self-sufficient, motivated and successful students.
SALT Center @ University of Arizona
The Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center distinguishes itself as an resource with comprehensive and specialized service for students with learning and attention challenges.
“It’s part of the continuous improvement of the SALT center that [employees] believe in our mission . . . and that all students are individuals,” said Director Robin Wisniewski.
Wisniewski recalls one student who was disqualified from the University of Arizona his first year. He spent a year at community college to improve his grades, returned to the university and enrolled in the SALT Center. The student ended up being successful, she said, thanks to the guidance he received at SALT.
A 30-year-old institution, SALT provides a strong foundation for each student with a strategic learning specialist and an individual learning plan (ILP). Based on the ILP, SALT offers tutoring in writing, math, the sciences and other courses, as well as workshops.
Wisniewski said specialists encourage students to take periodic breaks and apply new strategies, such as repetition and mindfulness to improve their learning.
“They want students to use real life skills … and be able to use strategies and be self-aware about their disability,” she said.
SALT also offers a number of computer assistive programs, including Dragon Dictate, Herstwhile and Inspiration software for concept mapping. Students enrolled in SALT have access to special technology resources, including a computer lab.
A great measurement for the success of SALT is the loyalty of its alumni. Many alumni who have gone on to illustrious careers and give back to the SALT center through generous donations to programming and scholarship funds.
Office of Disability Resource Services @ University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
It’s crucial for disability offices not only to work well with students, but also to maintain a positive relationship with those who manage tutoring and other outside resources students may use, says adviser Chris Coppess of University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.
There are a variety of options for La Crosse students in need of academic support, and Coppess’ office acts as a hub, linking up students with the right program. Students are encouraged to meet with professors, participate in group study sessions, pair up with a private tutor, or attend guided study skills workshops. There are also math, science and writing centers.
“It’s really important to maintain relationships [across departments],” Coppess said. “If there’s something you learn of that’s different, then you know which students to mention it to and have them follow up with it.”
With the other departments’ academic support, Coppess says advisers work with students’ individual needs in regular conversational meetings. Those students may need help adjusting to the workload of their college classes or finding new techniques for studying.
“Our office is kind of like a switchboard more than anything else,” he said. “I don’t provide study skills training, but I connect them with a person who connects [with] them on a day-to-day basis.”
Landmark epitomizes specialized instruction as a college specifically designed for students with ADD/ADHD and learning disabilities.
Its advisers and professors take an “individual approach” to cater to the needs of every student, ensuring a positive college experience.
“Some were diagnosed at age 10 and dealing with their attentional issues for a decade. Some were diagnosed in their upper teens and some even diagnosed in college,” says Jim Bothem of the education and psychology department. “They have difficulty with time management, organization and sometimes understanding the nature of their own ADD/ADHD.”
Landmark College President Peter Eden said students with ADD/ADHD are the largest demographic on campus right now. Landmark also serves students with language-based disabilities, dyslexia and more. He reiterates that all of their students learn differently.
To provide every student the attention they need, Landmark maintains a large staff to ensure individualized instruction and counseling.
Bothem says Landmark professors spend a lot of time holding office hours to meet with students. They use diagnostic approaches with advising, meeting with students at least once a week about their courses and goals.
“It’s almost a form of coaching,” he said.
Students receive help with time management and organization, but also self-advocacy and academic learning. Adrian Major, who teaches English, said students read about ADHD theory and diagnoses to understand themselves and the attentional difficulties they face.
“This study, with their own understanding of themselves, will allow them to create strategies to overcome some of the difficulties they experience with executive functions,” she said.
Major has found that many students struggle to apply study strategies to active studying, like note-taking while reading.
“I find that students are often very ambivalent to this, reluctant and sometimes so oppositional,” she said. “Often, I find it’s the attention to detail. They’re smart students; they don’t want to have to do this.”
Bothem suggested many colleges should take advantage of technology assistive programs to help students with study skills. Few colleges have Landmark’s advances, which combine traditional support like extended test taking time with innovations such as note-taking assistance, distraction-free rooms, text-to-speech meters and Inspiration software.
Overall, what ADD/ADHD students at Landmark may benefit from most is the sense of shared experience.
“I think what students find here is a community of learners who have experienced some of the struggle they have,” Major says. “That community allows them to move from a community of fear to a community of strength.”
Recipe for Success
ADD/ADHD students have as much likelihood as anyone of achieving academic success in college, and attending a school with a support system in place could almost guarantee it. Whether it’s the human connections like faculty support, tutoring and counselors, or looking ahead with technological advances, many schools have acquired the tools to ensure the best for their students.