Learning Disabilities and the College Admissions Process

A student with learning disabilities wants to go to college for the same reasons that motivate traditionally equipped students. This article can help learning disabled students with the often difficult college admissions process.

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A student with learning disabilities wants to go to college for the same reasons that motivate traditionally equipped students. He wants to be a doctor or play in the band. She wants to play field hockey or meet new friends. But getting into a college can be a complicated process for students with learning disabilities. Even so, just as with traditional students, it's important for learning disabled (LD) students to keep their goals in mind when considering what colleges and universities to apply for admission. Consider the location of the school, the programs of study available, the number of students who attend and any extra curricular opportunities.

Take Initiative

At the college level, the students are expected to take initiative and find answers to questions by themselves. A good school will readily provide the necessary information, but they will not seek out the students who need it. And there are lots of differences from one college to the next in how their programs are set up. Also, colleges tend not to inquire about learning disabilities from their applicants. Students must decide what information to disclose. Students can submit essays outlining their needs and accomplishments, or can try to arrange interviews to discuss their situations with college officials.

Make Your LD Work for You

If a student's academic record shows him to be at or below the minimum standard for a school, he may want to make his disability known immediately. It's possible that determination, initiative, and accomplishment in the face of adversity could sway an admissions board. It's also possible for a school to consider a different measure of academic performance or take other accomplishments into consideration. To request such consideration, a student should send a letter including the following information:

  • A statement revealing that you have a learning disability;
  • The admission requirement(s) you feel is (are) affected by this and how;
  • Any alternative or additional information you'd like to have be considered; and
  • Documentation of this disability by the appropriate professional.

Some colleges have a formal process for requests of this sort. Some don't. Students need to find out what the situation is and contact the right people. But don't hesitate to put in your request, even if the school has no official policy. A learning disability, if properly attended to, may have the unintended benefit of enabling young people to overcome challenging obstacles. The admission process can present many obstacles, but alternatives do exist.

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