The good news is that colleges are looking for diversity and a documented disability is considered a form of diversity.
Colleges often look at an applicant’s grades and test scores in a new light if presented with evidence of a learning disability, which is why it is important to share this information with the school. Your student’s disability may help put their lower grades and ranking in the correct context.
For example, a student ranked in the top half of their high school class is up against an applicant pool with a majority of students from the top 25 percent of their class. Showcasing a learning disability can help bridge this significant gap in grades. An LD student with a GPA of 3.4 may be competitive against an applicant pool that includes mostly students with GPA’s around 3.7.Other factors, such as academic activities and documented leadership experience, can positively impact admission. The key is to document the disability in advance of the college application process.
Nine Steps to a Smooth Transition for Students with Documented Disabilities
There are at least nine steps parents should take to ensure a smooth transition from high school to college for their special needs student:1. Keep assessments and individualized education plans current. Any learning disability should be reassessed within three years before applying to college. IEP’s should be reviewed annually.
2. Keep a copy of the latest assessment and IEP, as the college will need this to provide accommodations to your student.
3. When making a list of colleges to consider, be sure to review each college’s academic support programs. Do they provide enough support for your student? Some colleges offer direct support and intervention of up to one hour twice a week; whereas other universities only offer extended time and peer tutoring centers. Find the best support system for your child’s academic needs.
4. Call the college’s academic support department and talk with the specialist that runs the department. Inquire about their experience. Ask about the usual accommodations given to students and about software tools that would be available to your student. Keep their contact information, including a phone number, email and mailing address handy.
5. Ask about the retention rates for disabled students and how involved the academic support department is in helping each student.
6. Review expected accommodations, based on the assessments and IEP at the high school.
7. Include details of the disability under “additional information” in all college applications. Specify the name of the disability, its effect on learning, grades and any standardized testing, such as the SAT.
8. In a separate paragraph, share the strategies utilized to compensate for your student’s disability. Give examples and share all accommodations received in high school.
9. Conclude with a paragraph on how grades and test scores improved based on the accommodations, as well as any extras (such as an outside tutor).
( from Launching: College Success)
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