15 college programs for kids who learn and think differently

While all colleges must provide basic supports to students with learning disabilities and , many go beyond that. Some even offer fee-based programs to help build learning and executive function skills. Check out this list of 15 from Lauren Sagat, director of college guidance at Purnell School in Pottersville, New Jersey.

1. Mitchell College; New London, Connecticut

The Bentsen Learning Center Program (BLCP) at Mitchell offers different levels of support over the four years of college. (Mitchell also has a two-year degree program.) Freshmen meet with a learning specialist three times a week. The program focuses on learning skills, writing, and career readiness.

Nice feature: Mitchell runs the Thames Academy, a gap-year program to help kids with learning and thinking differences transition to college. Students can earn college credit.

2. Curry College; Milton, Massachusetts

The faculty at Curry’s Program for Advancement of Learning (PAL) work with students individually and in small classes. Students take one credited PAL course each semester. The program focuses on reading, listening, writing, and organization skills.

Nice feature: For an extra fee, PAL has a summer program to help with the transition from high school to college.

3. Lynn University; Boca Raton, Florida

Students in Lynn’s Institute for Achievement and Learning (IAL) work with academic coaches to build learning and executive function skills. The program offers four types of tutoring: content, group, and individual tutoring, plus process tutoring to help with writing, speaking, and organization.

Nice feature: Some courses at Lynn are taught by IAL fellows trained in different teaching strategies.

4. University of Arizona; Tucson, Arizona

Students in the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT) Center meet weekly with a learning specialist to work on executive function, attention, and learning problems. The program also offers tutoring and regular workshops. Topics include things like test taking, time management, and reading.

Nice feature: Students in the SALT Center can get individualized training on educational and organizational technology from a tech coach.

5. Muskingum College; New Concord, Ohio

The PLUS Program at Muskingum offers four levels of services to meet each student’s unique needs. Students meet one-on-one with professional learning coordinators, who support individual learning needs, monitor academic performance, and provide content tutoring.

Nice feature: Students are encouraged to take a reduced course load each semester.

6. McDaniel College; Westminster, Maryland

McDaniel offers different types of support programs. The most intensive is the Academic Skills Program. Students meet weekly with a support counselor to work on academics, time management, organization, and . The college’s PASS program (Providing Academic Support for Success) offers group academic support sessions three times a week.

Nice feature: McDaniel has a program called MAP (Mentorship Advantage Program) that provides interactive workshops on social skills, organization, time management, and more.

7. West Virginia Wesleyan College; Buckhannon, West Virginia

Students in the Mentor Advantage Program (MAP) meet with tutoring staff several hours a week. They work on general organization skills along with strategies for specific courses. Freshmen attend a course on making the transition to college. MAP also provides evening drop-in hours for extra support.

Nice feature: For an extra fee, the program offers a daytime check-in option for organization help, studying, or test review.

8. King’s College; Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

The college offers a two-tier program for freshmen called First Year Academic Studies Program (FASP). Students start out meeting individually and in small groups with a learning specialist four hours a week to build executive function and learning skills. Support decreases as the year goes on.

Nice feature: The program also works on self-esteem, stress, and anxiety issues.

9. Dean College; Franklin, Massachusetts

Dean’s Arch Learning Community is a step-down program. This means it starts out with intensive support for two years and decreases over time. In the beginning, students get three hours a week of academic coaching. They also attend smaller-group courses and a weekly seminar.

Nice feature: Students can remain in the program for four years if they pursue a four-year degree. (The college also offers two-year degrees.)

10. University of the Ozarks; Clarksville, Arkansas

The Jones Learning Center (JLC) offers students daily one-on-one access to the academic support staff to work on academic and organization skills. There’s no limit to how often they can meet. The program also provides peer tutoring and note-taking services.

Nice feature: JLC offers specific support for students with .

11. Northeastern University; Boston, Massachusetts

In the Learning Disabilities Program (LDP) at Northeastern, students work with a learning specialist for one hour, twice a week. As part of the program, students must commit to attending all classes and LDP sessions.

Nice feature: The program specifically works on building students’ motivation and persistence.

12. Davis & Elkins College; Elkins, West Virginia

Students in the Supported Learning Program work with a program instructor for an hour a week to develop academic and organization skills. They also come for five hours a week of supervised study hall. The program monitors their progress throughout the semester, based on goals they set at the start.

Nice feature: There are weekly group meetings for students with ADHD and challenges with .

13. Marist College; Poughkeepsie, New York

The Learning Disabilities Support Program at Marist pairs each student with a learning specialist. Freshmen meet with the specialist twice a week to work on learning, organization, and study skills. Students may still get individual support after the first year. But they’re expected to become more independent as time goes on.

Nice feature: The program prepares students to discuss their learning differences and needs with professors.

14. University of Denver; Denver, Colorado

Students in the Learning Effectiveness Program (LEP) meet with a counselor for an hour a week to develop strategies for learning and organization. (Students have access to a professional organization expert.) LEP also offers academic-content tutoring that uses different pathways to learning. Information might be presented visually or through movement, for instance.

Nice feature: Students can participate in a mentoring program where they work with younger children who have learning and thinking differences.

15. American University; Washington, DC

American has an intensive program for freshman called Learning Services Program (LSP). Students meet weekly with a learning counselor. They attend a special section of the freshman writing class and meet weekly with a writing coach for that course.

Nice feature: Students in the program are paired with an upperclassman who is their LSP mentor.


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