College can be challenging for any young person. However, for those experiencing Selective Mutism, it can be extremely stressful. The simple act of attending college is indicative of tremendous courage and growth for those with Selective Mutism. Many people may be limited in what they can achieve in their lives because their shyness keeps them from even trying. The success of going to college will bring more confidence.
Choosing a college that is a good fit may be quite difficult. The child’s personality, severity of the mutism, and comfort level need to be considered. There are many choices and one size does not fit all when weighing the options. The decision to go to a small or large college, attend locally or go out of state is a personal choice. They all offer pros and cons that may be beneficial to the Selectively Mute teenager. For the teen that needs more security, they may want to consider a community college and may not be ready to go away to school and need the comfort of home. The smaller classes may be less intimidating when called upon to participate in classroom discussions. The small school may not be so overwhelming and be easier to make friends. Everybody knows who you are and the professors know the students. This provides a strong sense of community. The small college has fewer majors, smaller library resources, fewer entertainment and social opportunities.
Others may be ready to attend a large university and live away from home. This offers the student an opportunity for a fresh start where no one knows them as the “shy, quiet one”. Most are ready to talk at this point, but may be reluctant to do so in their home towns as people who know they may make a big deal of it, which causes more anxiety as it draws attention to them. Living away from home helps them mature into adulthood, gain self-reliance, independence, and responsibilities. They learn to advocate for themselves and to function in the outside world.
For the students living in the residence, dorms or campus apartments offer a great avenue for the student to develop social skills. As students live in close quarters, they usually participate in school activities, movies, pizza, etc. as a group. This makes it easier to hang out together and makes a huge difference for the Selectively Mute student. They don’t have to initiate the contact for socialization as they are usually invited into the circle. In large schools, social possibilities are endless and offer lots of activities on and off campus.
Larger universities may have several hundred to several thousand in attendance. Big schools offer more sports and student activities. They offer a wide variety of majors and social opportunities. They have large classes with little student-teacher interaction. Some students like the anonymity that comes with being one of thousands of students. Some lecture halls could have several hundred students in the class. One advantage of this would be that usually no speaking is required because the professor would not be able to finish his lecture. Some classes do not require presentations of public speaking unless its one of your small classes. If after a few days you know that the particular class will cause undue anxiety due to pressure to speak, consider dropping it and adding another class. Most universities have a certain number of days in which this can be accomplished with no penalties. With determination and perseverance, the student with Selective Mutism can succeed!
For financial aid parents and students should check with the following organizations for assistance.
- Federal PELL Grants. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Federal PELL Grant Program provides direct federal grants to undergraduate students who require financial assistance to meet educational expenses. The non-repayable awards are available to eligible students attending approved colleges and universities, vocational-technical schools, hospital schools of nursing, and other approved post-secondary educational institutions.
- Rehabilitation Services. The Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) is available in every state. It is a program of the state government helping those who are disabled to find employment. Funding is provided by the State and Federal funds. Eligibility includes a physical or mental disability that would keep a person from obtaining suitable employment, or achieving a lifestyle of independence and dignity. The agency pays for college tuition and related costs for people who qualify under the program.