College Admissions Tips for Students with Learning Disabilities

Almost every accredited university provides support services for students with learning disabilities. These services vary in quality and extent from school to school.  For students with disabilities, it is imperative to find the school that is the best ‘fit’ in providing programs, policies, procedures, and facilities that meet your needs.

Below are some tips on choosing a school that suits your needs and goals — and what you need to do to make them choose you.

Review Your Needs

Sit down with a knowledgeable adult or counselor and review your needs. The goal is to better understand how your disability will influence your college choices. Questions to answer include:

  • How does my disability affect how I learn?
  • What are my academic strengths?
  • How do I learn best?
  • What strategies do I need to help me learn?
  • What facilities may I need?

Once you have these questions answered, the next move is to begin building a college list.

Investigate and Choose Schools

Students with disabilities should follow the same steps for choosing and applying to a school as any other student.  Preliminary research can be accomplished via internet searches, visiting colleges websites, checking out college guides, going on college visits, attending college fairs, and asking around.   Make a list of all the schools that interest you.

Then make a separate list of what your college must have to accommodate your needs.

For each of the schools you are interested in, contact its disability services office to determine if the college has the services and accommodations that can meet your specific requirements. Most colleges have an office that provides services to students with disabilities, or a person who coordinates these services.  Once you contact the office and get your questions answered, put a check next to each school on your list that can accommodate your needs.

Questions for the disability services office may include:

  • Are basic skills, study skills, time management, or organizing classes offered? Are they available for credit? Can they be counted as hours toward full-time status? What is the cost?
  • Is there a support group for students with disabilities?
  • Is there adaptive technology available?
  • How many disability specialists work with the program full time and part time?
  • Does the school offer specialized academic advising for students with disabilities?

Make sure to visit each school’s website for college disability services to get an idea of eligibility requirements, resources, services and accommodations, documentation required, available academic support and policies.

Make Yourself a Strong Candidate for Admissions

Do this by succeeding to the best of your abilities!

It is important to know that a school cannot deny your admission because of your condition if you meet the basic requirements for admission, including application deadlines, grade point averages, and college entrance exam scores. In fact, you don’t even need to tell a school you have a disability on your application, unless you want an academic adjustment.

What you must do is keep your grades up and become involved in extracurricular activities—just like any other student. Disabled or not, students must meet school standards for admission.

To Tell or Not to Tell

Whether you should reveal your disability early in the admissions process is up to you. The best filter may be: Will it hurt my chances?” or “Is it helpful to know?”

Disclosure early in the process is often recommended for applicants who need to provide context. For example, a student with disabilities may need to explain why a standardized test score appears low when compared with outstanding grades. However, applicants with strong grades and test scores should think twice before disclosing any learning issues, especially if there were no academic repercussions or if they are no longer relevant.

The Application

If you decide to disclose your disability, you can either describe your disability in a letter to the appropriate school personnel and keep a copy of the letter, or call attention to your disability in your main essay. If you choose to disclose your disability in your main essay, the essay must be positive and show how you can succeed. Do not try to write an essay designed to make an admissions officer feel sorry for you; this doesn’t work.

Testing Adjustments

Students with disabilities can receive special accommodations on standardized tests including the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, AP Exams and PSAT/NMSQT. As a student with a disability, you can request accommodations when you schedule your exams.

Be prepared to send copies of your psycho-evaluation, testing records, and any other assessments of your disabilities directly to the school or testing agency.

Stay positive

The college admissions process can be daunting for any student, but it can be entirely manageable if you start early and take it step by step.  The more information you have, the more “educated” your decision can be.

For more information and for other locations, visit http://www.exploringcollegeoptions.org


International College Counselors is an independent college admissions company that helps students in the U.S. and all over the world find, apply to, and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The college counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college admission process. For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 954 414-9986.