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Finding the Best College for Students with Learning Disabilities

Finding the best college is tricky for any student, but for those with learning disabilities (LDs) it can be an even bigger feat. In fact, the perfect school is out there for practically anyone, but finding it, takes some time and persistence. There are a number of options for students with LDs from colleges that cater primarily to this population to larger universities that offer specialized programs. With the proper testing in hand, all schools are mandated to provide reasonable accommodations, but not all institutions make it an easy task.
The college search for students with learning disabilities
What Are My Options?
  • Pre-colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities: These programs help to prepare students for the rigors of college and make sure they have the study skills, basic math, reading and writing capabilities needed to be a successful student. This might be a summer program or an additional year - commonly called a 13th year. For example, Thames at Mitchell College is a unique transition program on a college campus.
  • Colleges Specifically For Students with Learning Disabilities: There are a few colleges that catering just to an LD population. Landmark College and Beacon College are two such schools that are dedicated to serving students with LDs.
  • Programs within Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities: Because colleges are mandated to accommodate students with diagnosed learning disabilities, more and more schools are offering specific programs for this population of learners. Commonly, students with LDs need to show proof of disability and apply separately to get into such a program. Once accepted, these programs offer assistance with learning content, test-taking strategies, study skills, and many offer individual support with a learning specialist.
  • Alternative Schools or Colleges for Non-Traditional Learners: Students who seek an alternative education environment are often referred to as non-traditional learners, and the schools that accommodate these learners can fall into this category for many reasons. This alternative to traditional ways of teaching can accommodate many students with LDs. For example, a nontraditional college may grade students on projects in place of tests, offer small classes with roundtable discussions, present one intensive course at a time, discard traditional grading for an applied learning approach, NOT require homework, alternate between coursework and full-time work and much much more. To access a list of some of the best alternative schools Click Here
If you would like a list of the 20 leading college options for students with learning disabilities for 2017-2018 Click Here

Do All Students Have to Take the SATs and/or ACTs?
More and more colleges are not requiring college entrance exams such as the SATs and ACTs. Instead, they are interested in other student characteristics and can fall into three categories. Test-optional colleges allow you to decide whether to submit college entrance scores, test flexible colleges may waive testing requirements if an applicant is able to meet a minimum grade point average, and test blind schools will not even consider tests scores, even if you send them along with your application. If you would like to see a list of these colleges Click Here.

How Can I Get Accommodations in College?

All colleges are mandated to provide “reasonable accommodations” to students with LDs. And as long as you have received accommodations in the past and you have current documentation with a diagnosis of an LD, getting services should not be a problem. Here are the typical steps to follow:
  • Check to see whether the college offers a handbook for students with disabilities on their website. Here you can find the specifics for each institution.
  • Contact the person in charge of accommodations at the college and register as a student with a disability. Usually, the department is called disability services or student support services.
  • Schedule an appointment to meet with the person in charge of accommodations, and bring with you current documentation of your disability, as well as any prior IEP or 504 materials. Also, make a list of the accommodations you have received in the past as well as those services and accommodations that you currently need.
  • A person at disability services will review your materials, and let you know about your eligibility for services.
  • Accommodations and modifications will be granted and you will receive letters that authorized accommodations.
  • Be sure to advocate for any needed accommodations with your teachers and provide your disability services letter.
  • If you have trouble getting accommodations from a professor, reach out to disability services so they can help.
Again, there is a college out there for practically any learner. So, taking the time to scour the internet, read books, and consult with college counselors can assure that you will find the best fit.

Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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