When I was applying to college, my parents were very interested in looking at schools with successful learning disability programs. I thought a bit differently: I focused on finding schools that were popular, fun, and most importantly, had nothing to do with my learning disabilities (LD).
For most of my life, my parents and I had been trying to figure out why I was having difficulty learning at the same pace as my peers. I had been to the neuropsychologist numerous times for testing, had plenty of study sessions with tutors for various subjects, and had many disagreements with my school district over accommodations. As a result, I truly felt exhausted by the whole experience and had no interest in labeling myself in college.
It wasn’t until my parents and I had a serious conversation about my future that I realized how important a LD program would be to my success in college. We decided that I should apply to schools that had established learning disability programs, but were also schools that I could thrive in socially. Through our research, my parents and I found over fifteen schools that would accommodate both my parent’s preferences, as well as mine.
In the end, there was one school, the University of Arizona, which really fit me like a glove. I had always wanted to go to a big, fun, sports-oriented school, and the fact that the University of Arizona’s campus was flourishing with palm trees didn’t hurt. My parents were thrilled that I was interested in the school because its LD program, S.A.L.T. (Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques), was one of the best programs in the nation.
The four years that I spent at the University of Arizona and in the S.A.L.T. program is a time in my life that I will always hold dear to my heart. The S.A.L.T. program guided me through my academic achievements with ease. By meeting with my Strategic Learning Specialist, Rose, I learned how to balance my new life at college. She worked with me every week making sure I was comfortable with my transition into the university, supported me when things got tough, and helped me improve my time management and studying skills.
As a freshman, I quickly realized the difference in difficulty between high school classes and college courses. The tutoring aspect of the S.A.L.T. program was one of the main reasons why I succeeded during college. It always provided well-trained tutors for every course that I was taking, with flexible meeting schedules. The program also conducted various workshops that helped students explore ways to compensate according to their individual learning needs.
Overall, my college career was a success, having graduated magna cum laude, an accomplishment I had never dreamed possible. It’s important for students with LD to realize that the challenges they face may be grueling but, with determination and support, success is absolutely possible.
Jillian Levy is the Web Production Assistant for the Online Strategy and Engagement team at NCLD. She grew up with learning disabilties and is a champion of self-advocacy. Through her work at NCLD, she hopes to educate children and adults with LD to self-advocate as well.