What Differently-Abled Students Need to Know When Preparing For College

Finding the perfect college takes a lot of work and planning.  Students with disabilities and special requirements should be especially careful to ensure their college choice can provide for their academic and social needs.  It’s important to note that schools cannot deny a student admission based on a disability.  While it’s not required to tell schools about a disability, it is recommended that differently-abled students be up front about what they need.  The college cannot offer proper accommodations, and the best possible education if they are not informed.  While colleges do not have to lower their admissions requirements or expectations, they do have to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  What that means is that all qualified students should be able to access the program, regardless of a disability.  It also means that schools cannot charge students extra for accommodations provided due to a documented disability.

Below are some tips to stay organized and get the information necessary for the most valuable college experience.

  1. Make sure educational, psychological, and all relevant testing is current. Most colleges want testing to be less than three years old when looking at providing accommodations to students.
  2. Apply early because it takes time for schools to evaluate transcripts and testing.
  3. If you have an IEP, you may be eligible to receive accommodations on your PSAT, SAT, and AP exams. Check with your guidance counselor to see if you qualify.
  4. Some colleges require a separate application than the one for general admission to be considered for the learning disability programs. Check with the individual schools to see if there is an additional application for disability services.
  5. Colleges do not necessarily follow the IEP used during high school. Students need to contact the office of disability services to find out the procedures for making a college plan.  Every school is different, so find out what types of accommodations and support that are offered.  Accommodations are based on the type of disability and how it affects learning.  Some possible accommodations offered by schools are; extended time for tests and/or assignments, help taking notes, assistive technology (audio books, reading devices, use of a calculator), and reduced course load.
  6. Know ahead of time what types of accommodations you will need for college. Speak to your teachers and counselors and prioritize the types of support you will request for college classes.
  7. Visit schools, take a tour, and talk to current students that are utilizing the college’s disability services. Ask questions and learn about their experiences to get an idea of what to expect.
  8. Do not be afraid to ask for help. High school counselors, as well as college admissions staff are there to answer questions and keep students on the right track!

By Gail Easterling, College Planner, College Placement Consulting

Gail is a MSDE certified school counselor and believes that any student, regardless of learning or physical differences, can have a fulfilling experience at a great college. She will help students find the school that best meets their needs and passions. Gail graduated from UMBC with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, with a Psychology minor, and from Loyola University with a Master’s Degree in Education. She currently works as a Mental Health Consultant for the Child Care Resource Center at Chesapeake College and as a Home Hospital Instructor for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools. Gail has lived on the Eastern Shore for 16 years with her husband and two teenage sons. She is an active member of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and volunteers at Saint Vincent DePaul Society. In her spare time, she loves to read, craft, and bake (but not cook!).

References:

U.S. Department of Education www2.ed.gov

www.thecollegesolution.com

www.collegeboard.org

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Gail Easterling
Finding the perfect college takes a lot of work and planning.  Students with disabilities and special requirements should be especially careful to ensure their college choice can provide for ...
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