5 Tips for Navigating Learning Disabilities in College

Tips for Navigating Learning Disabilities in College

  • The Office of Student Success
  • Regular Exercise
  • Study Groups
  • Dedicated Study Space
  • Visit the Tutoring Center

Attending college represents enormous change in any life–academically, socially, and even physically–and can be especially challenging for students with learning disabilities. However, there are resources available to students as well as adaptive strategies designed to assist student success. These strategies fall into several categories, which encompass the mental and physical dynamics of college life, as well as embracing a new community. In the article below, we’ll explore five techniques that can help a student with unique challenges excel in their college course work.

1. The Office of Student Success

It’s in the best interests of the university that individuals with disabilities achieve success. Hence, there are resources and rights accorded to those with cognitive and physical challenges. While it is required that an individual seek out these resources and craft a success plan with a counselor, this office or its equivalent can be key in student academic success. The staff will help you discern the most effective academic approach, select class loads, and interface with teachers to reach appropriate accommodations. In effect, this office provides stress relief as well as guidance, which will help the student achieve success.

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2. Regular Exercise

It may sound silly, but even half an hour of brisk walking each day can help to focus your powers of mental acuity. For individuals with cognitive challenges or disabilities, the benefits of exercise cannot be overstated. Especially in young adults whose brains are still undergoing physiological development, physical exertion plays a powerful role in maintaining cognitive functionality. In fact, recent studies indicate that sudden cessation of accustomed activities can serve to exacerbate learning difficulties caused by both organic and psychological sources. By ensuring that you maintain a simple, aerobic routine, learning difficulties can be minimized.

3. Study Groups

While it may only serve to assist in partial inculcation of required materials, the benefits of belonging to a study group go beyond lessons and grades. Being a part of a group supports a sense of social involvement. In a new environment, in which a new student may feel disconnected from their accustomed social connections, sharing common goals and challenges with a peer group relieves stress, offers support, and can greatly assist in mastery of difficult academic material. Plus, new friendships are often a source of encouragement when facing the unknown.

4. Dedicated Study Space

While numerous studies indicate that a quiet comfortable space encourages absorption of concepts and study materials for everyone, for those with learning disabilities, it’s especially important. As a student settles into their new college environment and attempts to master their schedule, creating such a space should be a top priority. Western culture prides itself on multitasking and its often seen as a mark of prestige for an individual to balance multiple activities at once. However, if you have a cognitive disability, you should ignore this. Find a quiet place where you can be comfortable—in the library, on the campus grounds, or even in an unoccupied part of your dorm.

5. Visit the Tutoring Center

In addition to the assistance of a Student Success Plan and membership in specific study groups for your classes, you may want to take advantage of the tutoring services all campuses make available to their student bodies. Here, you can request additional tutoring in all your subjects—from STEM subjects to foreign language, literature, history, and more. At the tutoring center, individuals are available to work privately with you. This provides an advantage your study group may not—one on one focus on difficult materials. There is also the benefit of privacy, which can make asking for extra help much easier than it might be in a group setting.


Because college is challenging for all new students, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There is a community of professionals and peers waiting to assist you in achieving your academic goals and thriving as a student. Learning disabilities are not insurmountable roadblocks on your path to a degree, but merely special challenges that will help you make your educational experience as unique as you are.

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