Colleges and universities are responsible for meeting students’ needs inside the classroom, including students with mental illness or other health conditions. However, it’s the responsibility of the student to make their college or university aware of any academic accommodations they may need. There are several accommodations you can ask for, and many academic institutions offer a range of resources for students. Here’s our guide to requesting academic accommodations from your college, along with a list of possible accommodations you can request.
How To Request Academic Accommodations in College
Students must initiate the process of requesting academic accommodations. If you recently enrolled in a college or university, consider reaching out to your institution to learn more about the process. It’s best to contact the disability services office to register and ask about the available accommodations. The disability services office may ask to see documentation from a doctor or mental health professional with details about why you need accommodations. The process for registration may vary based on your institution, so it’s helpful to review your college’s website to ensure you understand the process.
Once you’ve registered with the proper office at your college, it’s important to speak with your professors. Try to schedule a meeting with each professor early in the semester by emailing them, visiting during their office hours, or speaking to them after class. During this meeting, explain why you need academic accommodations or why they’re helpful. You can work with your professors to develop a specific plan for each course. It’s useful to bring any documentation you have that verifies your registration with the correct office. Remember, you can choose how much you share with professors about your mental health.
Academic Accommodations You Can Request
There are several useful academic accommodations available to college students. Every university is required to provide access to courses and programs, so you shouldn’t feel worried about asking for help. Here’s a brief list of possible accommodations you might request:
Additional Time for Exams
One accommodation available is receiving additional time during an exam. Many students feel anxiety or panic during exams, which can influence testing performance. Additional time may help you relax or feel less pressure while taking the exam. With more time, you might be able to lower your exam anxiety and perform more effectively. It’s important to discuss this accommodation with your professors since each exam differs and may require more or less time depending on the style of the test.
Another common accommodation involves modifying deadlines. This is especially useful for students who may miss lectures due to mental health or for treatment. Rather than receiving no credit for an assignment, professors can extend the deadline so you can still pass your courses. Not only do modified deadlines increase flexibility for students, but they can also reduce stress and anxiety. Consider discussing this with your professors early on so they can easily approve your request for a modified deadline later in the semester if needed.
Private Testing Locations
Some students benefit from taking exams in private testing locations. Taking an exam may cause stress and anxiety, resulting in verbal or physical reactions that could distract others. Many colleges and universities have designated spaces for tests and exams. A private location might be in the college’s library or the disability office. While these locations offer more privacy, it’s common for professors or aides to observe students while they complete the exam to prevent cheating. This accommodation benefits you as well as others in your course.
If you take medication that results in grogginess or interferes with your ability to focus during class, you could request a technology accommodation. For example, you could receive permission to record lectures so you can listen to them later. Another technological permission you can ask for is early access to class notes. Some professors prepare an outline of notes that covers topics they plan to discuss in class. Receiving these notes before class may help you stay focused since you can follow along with the lecture more easily.
Ability To Withdraw Retroactively
Usually, students aren’t able to withdraw from a course once it’s underway. However, if you experience academic difficulties due to your mental health, like missing several weeks of the semester, you may request to withdraw retroactively. This academic accommodation is typically reserved for more serious absences and conditions. Withdrawing retroactively removes any incomplete or failed courses from your transcript, so you can continue in your education. If you only miss a few classes throughout the semester, you might ask to have your absences excused rather than withdrawing from the course completely.
Alternative Homework Options
Sometimes, students are unable to complete certain assignments or exams due to anxiety or other mental health conditions. If you think certain assignments on the syllabus could trigger your anxiety, try discussing alternative assignment options with your professor. For example, instead of presenting a report to the class, you might write an essay instead. This accommodation allows you to continue to engage with the material in a way that suits you. However, professors often need time to consider an alternative option, so it’s beneficial to discuss this accommodation with them early in the semester.
Reduced Course Load
Typically, colleges and universities require students to take a certain number of courses each term. However, if your mental health influences your ability to manage several courses, you can request a reduced course load. It’s important to consider that taking a reduced course load every semester may increase the amount of time it takes to complete your degree. However, it can significantly reduce stress and anxiety and make the semester much more manageable.
There are many helpful academic accommodations available for students in college. If you struggle with mental health, consider asking for academic accommodations that would improve your college experience so that you can complete your degree without sacrificing your mental health. At NeuroHealth of Arlington Heights, we’re committed to advocating for students’ mental health. Each college has a different process for requesting accommodations, but connecting with the right department on campus can significantly improve your academic experience during your college years. Contact us if you need support or want a consultation.