Searching for Colleges When You Have a Learning Disability

By: Coach James   Searching for colleges can already be a daunting task, but when you have a learning disability there are a LOT more questions that you need to ask. At College Admissions Assistance, we want to help our students with learning differences ask the right questions to help them through the process.   Here are a few things for families of students with learning disabilities to consider when evaluating colleges:   - Unlike high schools, colleges are not required to test students for disabilities. If you're not sure if your student has a disability, ask for them to be tested prior to graduation. This will make their transition to college easier with documentation already in hand. - Colleges are not required to follow an IEP or 504 Plan. Colleges are only required to provide "reasonable" accommodations to support the student's learning. - Students should be well-versed in what their needs are. In college, it is the student's responsibility to know what they need and ask for it. - Visit colleges and ask questions! Does the school have a learning center? What services are provided? How do the services work? Do students need to make an appointment to see an advisor or tutor?   As you might guess, not all colleges offer the same types or levels of accommodations for students with learning disabilities. Here are some broad categories:   Minimum Some colleges will only meet the basic ADA requirements, meaning their services will be minimal. There may not be a centralized center or supervisor of accommodation programs, and students shouldn’t expect support in their self-advocacy. Some students with learning disabilities may still be able to do well at these schools, but those students will have to be their own advocate and work to make sure their accommodations are available to them.   Moderate These colleges will offer services beyond the minimum required and are more sensitive to the range of learning differences students may have. The majority of colleges fall into this category. Though students will still have to initially seek accommodations, these schools will often have a professionally staffed learning center. Services can still vary widely, but generally the institutions are willing to do their best to meet students’ needs, within budget.   Comprehensive Some colleges have fee-based, entirely separate programs for students with learning disabilities. While these students are still part of the college community, there is a full-time director, staff, and built-in programs promoting organizational skills, time management, self-advocacy, and social skills. Students also usually have advocates as part of the program who may contact professors or the admissions office on the students’ behalf.   At CAA, our coaches are here to address more specific questions and help students seek the right-fit college for them. Please contact us for more information.