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If you are a student with a learning disability, you may not know all the services available to you on college campuses. Check out our tips to help you advocate for your learning style and attend a school that prioritizes the needs of students with disabilities.


Navigating the College Search Process


Connect with the disability office

When adding schools to your college list, be sure to connect with each disability office to learn more about their services. Ask specific questions: What accommodations do you offer? What assistive technologies do you provide? How do I qualify for these services? Do you have a transitional summer program? Is there a support group for students with disabilities? Will you connect me to students with disabilities so I can hear about their experiences?


Be proactive

Make sure all of your paper work is organized and up-to-date. To legally qualify for disability services, you need to have testing done at the age of 16 or later. You may have received accommodations in high school through the 504 plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP). However, you may not be able to rely on these programs in order to qualify, so make sure to check with schools about their requirements. Be prepared to register with your school’s disability services office at the beginning of each semester, and email letters of accommodations to your professors. 


Consider test-optional schools

If your standardized test scores are not where you want them to be, think about applying to test-optional schools. You can see a list of test-optional schools at FairTest, a non-profit working to eliminate standardized testing. Each year, more and more selective schools are opting for test-optional admissions requirements. This includes American University, Bowdoin College, Wesleyan University, George Washington University, and Bryn Mawr College


Disclosing Your Disability

You may wonder if you should disclose your learning disability on your college application. Many students fear that divulging their disability will impact their chance of admittance. Other students use their college essay as a chance to communicate their experience with a learning disability. When you are truthful in your application, you give schools a clearer picture of who you are, what you can contribute to the school, and how they can better serve you. 


If you want to reveal your disability, but don’t want to make it the topic of your college essay, include it in the “additional information” section of your application. Remember, schools are prohibited by law to ask about learning disabilities. So, the choice is yours. You don’t have to share this information if you don’t want to. 


Resources for Learning Disabilities

To ensure colleges are meeting your needs, keep an eye out for these resources:


Classroom accommodations

You may be familiar with classroom accommodations you’ve had in high school. In college, you can expect services such as note takers, quiet classrooms for test taking, more time for exams, and accessible seating.  


Alternative forms of course work

More and more colleges are acknowledging the various ways students demonstrate mastery of course material. This means professors may allow students with disabilities to create a final project instead of sitting down for a final exam.


Access to Assistive Technology (AT)

Be sure to inquire about the technologies that suit your learning style best. This includes audio textbooks, audio recorders, graphic organizers, speech-to-text software, and so much more. Look for schools that have Assistive Technology centers with trained students and staff available for questions and support. 


Hopefully you feel more prepared to find the school that satisfies your learning style with this information. Check out this article to learn more about resources for students with disabilities!