Office of Counseling
& Disability Services
Planning Ahead While You Are Still in High School
You should start planning and taking action your junior and senior years to make the college experience run smoothly.
Plan to apply for admission to SSU in the Fall of your Senior Year. Plan to apply for financial aid by completing the FAFSA form by March of your Senior Year. If you are planning to live on campus, apply for housing and any needed disability related housing accommodations as soon as you are accepted for admission.
Call and schedule an appointment with the Coordinator of Disability Services as soon as you are accepted for admission. If you apply for accommodations at the last minute, you probably won't have accommodations in place when school starts.
If you currently use test accommodations, do the paperwork with your high school counselor during your junior year to receive accommodations when you take the SAT or ACT. These scores are very important for admission and you want the scores to reflect your abilities at their best. It is very frustrating to be denied admission because your SAT/ ACT scores are too low. You must request accommodations and provide documentation to the testing agencies well in advance of test dates. Take the tests early and consider taking them more than once. If a SAT or ACT test prep class is offered at your high school, take it!
Be sure that you understand what the admission requirements for different colleges are and that you meet them. At the post secondary level, students with disabilities must be "otherwise qualified "… that is they must meet all admissions and academic standards. That means you must have the required high school college prep curriculum, GPA and SAT or ACT scores. If you do not meet the admission standards for your first choice of schools, consider a two year junior college or technical school. You may be able to transfer to your first choice school later after you have demonstrated academic success.
Understand that there are some significant differences in the law and in policies when you go to college. There are no special classes for students with disabilities. You must identify yourself to the Coordinator of Disability Services, provide sufficient documentation of your disability and carefully follow our office procedures in order to receive accommodations. Documentation requirements in college are usually rather extensive and the IEP is not usually adequate by itself. You may need your school counselor to help you update documentation or you may need to arrange to see a private physician or psychologist to complete documentation before the end of your senior year in high school. Getting updated documentation quite often takes months, so don't delay! We can help refer you to the appropriate resource to obtain disability documentation.
Work on academic skills, library research skills, note taking skills, test taking skills and writing skills. Prepare for your school work to be harder and take longer than it did in high school. Plan on spending at least two hours studying for every hour you are in class. Assume you will have to do much of your learning independently. Assume you will have to read textbooks more than once to master the material.
Prepare to start advocating for yourself instead of having your parents do it. Professors expect to talk to you as an independently functioning responsible adult. The Coordinator of Disability Services will give you an Accommodation Letter every semester and you will need to meet privately with each professor and discuss it in order to receive accommodations. Insightfully think about and practice discussing how your disability impacts you in an educational setting. You must ask for services and follow procedures in order to receive your accommodations, so make sure you understand what your responsibilities are.
Be realistic about your disability. This is definitely not a good time to be in denial or embarrassed about your limitations and need for accommodations. College academics are definitely going to be more demanding and require you to be at your best. It can be a little hard to discuss your limitations with a professor at first, but it's a lot harder to live with the consequences of poor grades. You are putting a lot of time, effort and money into college. Use all the tools that are available to help you succeed. Come to terms with your disability, learn the skills you need to deal with your disability, get over being embarrassed, and use the accommodations and services you need now to be successful. Your future depends on it! If you are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty adjusting to your disability, consider talking to a counselor at the free Office of Counseling and Disability Services on campus. On Graduation Day, I don't know any students that regret using the accommodations and have diplomas in their hands. I know many students who don't use accommodations, fail academically and regret it.
Work on your independent living, time management and organizational skills. If you are going to be moving out of your family home and living on your own for the first time, practice handling adult responsibilities like checkbooks, bill payment, car maintenance, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and obtaining prescriptions now so you are not overwhelmed with new responsibilities when you get here.
If you are on medication for a psychological disorder or receiving other specialized medical care and moving to the Savannah area to attend SSU, we strongly recommend that you find a physician here in Savannah, have your medical records transferred and make an appointment to meet the new doctor before school begins. In the middle of a medical crisis, it can be difficult to go back home for a medical appointment and it can be very difficult to schedule a crisis appointment with a local specialist if you are not already on his or her caseload. If you are coming from out of state, it can be difficult to get prescriptions filled in GA if they are written by a doctor in another state. We have basic primary care available on campus for free at the Harris McDew Health Center and the staff at our campus clinic can help you find an appropriate specialist physician in this area.
Read your college catalog carefully. It is an important reference tool that you need to keep and refer to often. It contains information about admission requirements, academic standards, course requirements, the Honor Code, majors offered, and services available.
Think twice about using alcohol and illegal drugs. Not only will their use get you into serious trouble with campus administration and the legal system, alcohol and drugs significantly impair your ability to perform academically and impair your judgment so that you are more apt to get yourself into risky situations. You need to be at your best cognitively to succeed in college. Realize that a legal record can keep you from obtaining professional licenses or eliminate you from a job you want later on. Do you really want to throw away the opportunity for an education and a well paying career for a short term high? You can easily do something in 60 seconds that you will regret for sixty years.
Make smart decisions about your sexual behavior. Your sexual decisions are literally life and death decisions when you factor in pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. Think about your decisions before you get into a situation where passion and emotion are making decisions for you. Get information and birth control and health care from the clinic on campus. Be responsible for yourself and don’t let sexual decisions hurt your future or your partner’s.
Actively participate in all the programs in the freshman orientation program, before you start classes here. Get connected to a staff person or faculty member who can guide you to the appropriate resources when you need help and use the resources. Remember, every student needs help sometimes...that’s why the resources exist! Don’t be afraid to ask… we are here to help. In the SSU Office of Counseling and Disability Services, our motto is “HELP is NOT a bad four letter word.”