Florham Campus COMPASS Program

Applications Being Accepted for Fall 2019

The deadline for applications for the 2019-2020 academic year is February 16, 2019.

College Success

Leaving home to start college is daunting for most young adults. For the young adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), the task may pose so many challenges that a successful experience seems especially difficult to obtain. Fairleigh Dickinson University’s COMPASS program at the Florham Campus is designed to provide critical support during the first two years of college so that young adults with ASD or AS can discover new competencies, hone trusted coping skills, and explore new opportunities for success. The college graduation that may have at one time seemed out of reach can now become a realistic goal.

Overview of Support Program

The COMPASS program is an individually tailored, comprehensive, academic and social support program for up to six college students with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger's Syndrome in each incoming class. The goals of this two year program are 1) to help each student recognize and make use of existing academic and social strengths, 2) to aid in the development of new abilities and 3) to promote progress toward a higher level of independent functioning. The student that can benefit the most from the COMPASS program is the one for whom a successful four to five year college experience is within reach. The program is designed to help this very student bridge the gap between aspiration and achievement. The ideal candidate for the COMPASS program has:

  • The intellectual, academic and organizational capabilities to succeed at college as a full-time matriculated student,
  • The ability to live in a semi-independent setting, and
  • The readiness to face the challenge of exploring the social aspects of the residential college experience.

To support students’ growth towards increased independent functioning at the college level, the COMPASS program - in close coordination with myriad other student services on campus – will help each student develop the enhanced self-advocacy, self-disclosure and self-monitoring capabilities with which they can recognize and address their own areas of difficulty, know how and when to request help, and confidently access support from the larger University community. It is expected that by the third year of studies, each student will have been able to successfully transition out of the COMPASS program in order to utilize the support services available to all students on campus.

Transition to College

As a participant in the COMPASS program, students will begin the FDU experience during the summer when all incoming freshmen participate in a one-time overnight freshman orientation program designed to help them meet their new classmates and become acquainted with the university campus and the services available. An orientation to Fairleigh Dickinson University will also be held for parents at that time. Program staff will work closely with the COMPASS students during this orientation, making certain that each student has a positive experience. It is at this time, as well, that all incoming freshmen meet with the Academic Advising staff to establish a course selection for the fall semester; again, COMPASS staff will be involved in the process.

Specialized Services

For every week of the fall and spring semesters, each COMPASS student receives

  • Two hours of individualized, hands-on academic support,
  • One hour of individual counseling, and
  • One group therapy session.

All services are provided by advanced graduate students in Clinical Mental Health Counseling under close supervision by licensed mental health professionals. Each COMPASS student will receive academic support and individual counseling, as well meeting for weekly group counseling. All COMPASS students will receive individually tailored counseling and support.

The College Community

An essential component of the COMPASS program is the outreach and education component that will take place before students even arrive in the fall. The program will educate individuals and departments throughout the University community on Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome, utilizing the skills of our own staff as well as experts in the field. Through these activities the FDU community can recognize the strengths as well as the challenges common among young adult college students with ASD or AS. Faculty, students and staff from residence life, student counseling center, public safety, academic advising, enrollment services and other departments will all have the opportunity to learn about some of the needs of individuals with ASD or AS, and more importantly, how best to address those needs in a way that supports success. Program staff will serve as ongoing consultants to the University community throughout the year to address any challenges that arise in responding to the needs of COMPASS students.

COMPASS students will also have the opportunity to be paired with a student peer mentor. Each peer mentor is an upperclassman at FDU who has volunteered to serve as a friend and resource to a COMPASS student to help them settle in and become comfortably acquainted with university life. Monthly events for all students and their peer mentors will allow for additional social opportunities.

Why Fairleigh Dickinson University?

  • Student/faculty ratio is 14:1
  • Small average class size of 18 students
  • More than 100 active student organizations and clubs

Program Fee

The fee for the COMPASS program is $7,072 per academic year, in addition to University tuition and residence fees. Students applying to FDU should visit the Financial Aid page for information about applying for financial assistance.

Application Process

The COMPASS program is designed for a small group of select students who will take advantage of all that FDU and the program have to offer them, with the greatest likelihood of college success. To be accepted to the program, students must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Documentation of a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s syndrome by a psychiatrist or licensed psychologist within the previous 24 months,
  • The ability to live away from home in a semi-independent environment,
  • A careplan for obtaining services not offered by FDU or the COMPASS program, and
  • An on-site interview with program staff.

The COMPASS program cannot adequately serve, and therefore will not accept:

  • Students with other, co-occurring, major psychiatric disorders,
  • Students with a history of violence, and
  • Students requiring a one-on-one aide.

Students interested in the COMPASS program must first apply and be accepted to Fairleigh Dickinson University through the general application process. The COMPASS-Florham application must be completed fully and submitted, along with all supporting documents, by February 16, 2019.

COMPASS-Florham Program
Department of Psychology and Counseling
Fairleigh Dickinson University
285 Madison Avenue (M-ZN2-01)
Madison, NJ 07940

Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Students being considered will be notified by phone and asked to visit the campus for an interview with COMPASS faculty and staff. Students invited for interviews will have an opportunity to enjoy a casual lunch with program staff, other applicants, and key campus leaders. Additional materials may be requested and permission to speak with a treating mental health professional will be requested in order to ensure student appropriateness for the program.

Application Checklist

The following materials are required for admission:

  • Completed application form
  • Letter of acceptance to Fairleigh Dickinson University*
  • One official academic transcript
  • One student copy of SAT or ACT scores
  • Psychological/psychiatric report stating a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. (This report must be dated within 24 months of the application.)
  • High School psychosocial/psychoeducational evaluation and Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan, if applicable
  • $35 application fee

*Please send your completed application materials by February 16, 2019. If you are waiting for an acceptance letter from FDU, please submit the rest of your application by this date and send the acceptance letter as soon as you receive it. No other materials will be accepted after the application deadline.

To Contact Us

Program Staff

Madonna Saganda
Program Director, Florham Campus

Taylor Nolan
Assistant Program Director, Florham Campus

Erica Gale
Program Coordinator

Ryan Garner
Program Coordinator

For questions or additional information, or to schedule a representative to come speak to your staff, please call COMPASS Program Coordinators, Erica Gale or Ryan Garner, at 973-443-8095.

COMPASS-Florham Program
Department of Psychology and Counseling
Fairleigh Dickinson University
285 Madison Avenue (M-ZN2-01)
Madison, NJ 07940