Is college or university right for you?

College or university is a whole different ball game than high school. Expectations are higher. Pressures are greater. You are considered an adult and held responsible for your own success or failure. Going to university or college may also coincide with your first time living on your own. You'll probably go through a major adjustment period, but you're not alone. It's the same for everyone - with or without a learning disability. And people do adjust, are successful, and enjoy student life!

How do you know if you are ready for post-secondary education?

Can you answer yes to these questions?
  • Have I been to a college or university information session?
  • Do I have documentation that clearly defines my learning disability?
  • Am I comfortable talking about my disability?
  • Do I know what accommodations I will need?
  • Can I develop a study schedule and stick to it?
  • Do I have the persistence and confidence to face frustrations, get the information I need from school administrators, and advocate for myself if necessary?
  • Would I ask a support person for help if I started having difficulty?
  • Can I balance academic responsibilities with my free time?
  • Am I comfortable in big groups of students?
  • Can I work in a group?
  • Can I stick to my educational goals for at least one semester?
Skills you need to have
As you consider what program to take, you will also want to assess your own skills in the following areas:

Writing Skills
Many courses - especially those in university programs - require written assignments. You will need to have the ability to research a topic, organize your ideas, make an argument and write well.

Computer Skills

Using computers is a fact of life for college and university students. Post-secondary institutions expect students to apply for admission and register for courses on-line. Timetables and course outlines are on-line, as are library catalogues, which you’ll need to access for research papers and assignments. If you don't have basic keyboarding and computer skills, you may find it difficult to do the required work. You may want to take a non-credit computer course to improve your skills before enrolling.

Study Skills

College and university courses typically require a lot of listening and note-taking, as well as reading assignments. In order to be successful, you will need to develop a number of skills, such as the ability to identify important material, so you can study effectively.

You may want to consider upgrading your skills before applying to college or university. Many school boards offer adult education programs that include skills upgrading courses. Colleges and universities also offer skills upgrading courses to students who are thinking about applying for admission. These non-credit courses can be especially helpful if you have been out of school and need to refresh your skills.

Once you're at college or university, the institution's learning/study skills centre is a good resource to help you develop your skills. These centres provide study skills courses and tutoring support, as well as other options for improving your skills.

Try Things Out

Been out of school for a while? Aren't sure whether you can meet the demands of college or university? Want to be sure a particular program is for you? You can always test the water by doing the following:
  • Take a non-credit continuing education course. You can do this without applying for admission to a college or university, or enrolling in a specific program. If you want to experience a learning environment without the pressure of assignments and testing, this is a good option.
  • Attend a lecture. Some institutions will allow you to sit in on a lecture in the program of your choice.
  • Audit a course. While you don't do the assignments or exams, and can't receive a credit, you can attend the lectures and do the readings. This usually costs less than registering for a credit course.
  • Take a course specially designed for students returning to school. Some colleges or universities offer special courses to help you upgrade your skills and/or decide whether you're ready to enroll in a program.
  • Take a credit course. You'll have the chance to try out the program and spend time at the college or university to see if it’s right for you.
Adapted from: Centre for Students with Disabilities, Algonquin College, Ottawa, Ontario:
Your Education - Your Future, Canadian Mental Heath Association:
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