If you are reading this, I am assuming you want to go to college. You must have a number of reasons why (to get a job, be a teacher, play tennis, be a doctor, meet new people, choose a career, play in the band, etc.). Keep these reasons in mind as you begin to look at colleges. These reasons will tell you what to look for as you read about and visit colleges.
First, you should consider the things you want from college. Does it have the academic programs you are interested in? Where is it located? What is the size of the student body? Are there extracurricular programs that you are interested in (sports, clubs, service organizations, etc.)? What are the costs?
Once you generate a list of colleges, there are more questions to ask. How are academic programs structured? What general support services (tutoring, orientation courses, writing labs, technological support, etc.) are offered? What does the campus look and feel like? How is the food? What kind of calendar or time frame are classes taught in (quarters or semesters)? What is a typical class size for an introductory course? And finally, how are disability services organized?
It is important to know that there is a great deal of variability in how disability services are organized from college to college. Generally, students must take the initiative to receive services. College students have control over who knows about their disability and how to arrange accommodations; they will also have more responsibility for making those arrangements.
Another common fact is colleges will not ask you about your disability. You may choose to include information about your disability in your application. You can do this in an essay, in letters of recommendation, or in a separate letter included with your application. Different colleges have different ways of considering this information. Check with the disability services office or the admissions office about the procedures at the schools you are interested in attending.
Once you identify several colleges you are interested in, ask yourself, Could I be successful at these colleges? Look at their admission standards. Do you meet their minimum standards (required courses, GPA, SAT, etc.)? If the answer is no, there may be an alternative admissions process at the institution that you can ask about.
If you can picture yourself being successful at a certain college, the next question is how typical your profile is for the college. Are you below, right at, or above average in the SAT and GPA? If you are at or above average, you are a good candidate. If you are below average, you may want to consider ways to strengthen your application. Consider your extracurricular activities, work experiences, hobbies, etc. Another question to ask yourself is, Are there places where the impact of my disability masks my true achievement or potential?
Why disclose your disability? One reason is that your disability has influenced your approach to learning, your determination, and many other things in your life. What you have learned about yourself and how you have dealt with your disability may say volumes about the kind of person and student you are.
If you are below a minimum standard (or somewhere below average), requesting colleges to consider additional or alternative information is reasonable. The goal of this kind of request is to have the college consider a substitute measure or to take additional information into consideration.
If you wanted to request this kind of consideration, you
should enclose a letter with your application that includes:
Some colleges have a formal process for these kinds of requests while others do not. You should check with the disability services office about formal procedures. You may submit this kind of request even if there is not a formal process in place.
Published in the Nov/Dec 1999 LDA (Learning Disabilities Association) News briefs
Questions Students with Learning Disabilities Should Ask When Visiting a College
Adapted from the Learning Disabilities Training Project, Western Carolina University