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What You Need to Know About Applying to College with a Learning Disability

Learn GraphicFortunately, when my son was applying to college he didn’t have to deal with a learning disability on top of everything else although I do know quite a few homeschoolers who did have to deal with both issues. It seems to me that the approach one takes in applying to college as a homeschooler isn’t all that different from that of someone applying to college with a learning disability. Ultimately, students have to be prepared to address the issue as appropriate throughout the admissions process.

Testing Accommodations for Learning Disabilities

The process of applying to college with a learning disability begins with admissions testing. Before you begin the process of requesting accommodations from the SAT or ACT, consider if you need to take the test at all. There is a growing list of colleges that are test optional so there may not be any need to add the stress and cost of college entrance exams to the college application process.

If you decide to take either the SAT or ACT with accommodations, the fact that you had accommodations will not be revealed to the receiving colleges. However, you have to apply for accommodations and should do so early. For more information about applying for accommodations, read the following:

How to Find the Right College

So which colleges should students with learning disabilities apply to? You’ll find various lists on websites and books with recommendations. There are two problems with these lists. The first is that it’s not always clear on what basis schools are selected to be on list. Just because a college doesn’t make the list doesn’t mean that its services are lacking, it could be just that the list creator hadn’t heard of it.

The second problem is as Marcia Brown Rubinstein points out “Finding a college with the best support program or the most services does not guarantee the right match.” Families need to find out what the current situation is at the college and whether or not it meets the student’s specific needs. The reality is that “By the time this information is published in guidebooks, it is often out of date. To get those answers, there is no substitute for a comprehensive campus tour.”

Ultimately, you’ll have to investigate the disability support services provided by potential schools. You should contact the student disability support services directly rather than go through admissions. This way you can still decide not to disclose your learning disability as part of the application process and the support staff are not allowed to disclose the information. Read Sample Questions to Ask a College’s Office of Disability Support Services for questions to ask.

Disclosing Your Disability

Once you’ve decided which colleges to apply to, you have to decide whether or not to disclose your disability to the admissions office. The general consensus appears to be that there is no harm in disclosing. Legally, the admissions office can’t discriminate on the basis of a learning disability. Furthermore, the disclosure can provide some needed context for lower grades and test scores.

If you’re trying to decide how and when to disclose the learning disability, visit the following websites:

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Simply because a student is accepted at a college doesn’t mean that services will automatically be provided. Students will have to request them. According to the Association on Higher Education and Disability only 25 percent of students with disabilities use available campus services. If you go through the trouble of identifying colleges that will provide the best support for your learning disability, make sure you use them!

More Resources on College and Learning Disabilities

HEATH Resource Center at the National Youth Transitions Center Download the Advising High School Students with Disabilities on Postsecondary Options for free.

LD OnLine Visit the College & College Prep section for articles, questions and answers, recommended books, and links on applying to college with a learning disability.

National Center for Learning Disabilities Visit the Teens & Transition section under the For Parents tab. Also download the Transition to College: Strategic Planning to Ensure Success under the Resources section.

Understood The Leaving high school section offers a variety of articles and tips to help students with learning disabilities get ready for college.

The following table is a list of 113 institutions with ten percent or more of its students registered with disabilities. This table is based on the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data with 500 or more undergraduates that appears in the DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet. The four-year graduation rate is used for private schools and the five-year rate for public schools.

Colleges with High Percentage of Registered Students with Disabilities

Link to spreadsheet listing colleges with most student registered with disabilities

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What You Need to Know About Applying to College with a Learning Disability