• Navigating the College Process For Students with Disabilities

    The College Search Process

    1. Understand your GPA, standardized test scores, transcript (rigor of courses taken), and other outside activities that provide schools a picture of who you are as a student.
    2. Consider demographic, academic, and financial preferences.


    Academic Questions

    • What do you expect to achieve in college?
    • What type of work do you expect to engage in after you graduate?
    • How important is it to have a conversation and get personal attention from your professors?
    • Do you prefer a highly structured environment or curriculum that allows for more independent projects?
    • Do you know what you want to major in? Do you think your major may change?
    • What specific programs or experiences interest you?
    • What level of academic challenge is right for you?


    Demographic Questions

    • What geographical location is right for you?
    • Do you prefer a rural, small town, suburban or urban setting?
    • Do you prefer a large, medium or small population of students?
    • Do you prefer a school where a majority of students reside on campus and do not travel home on the weekend?
    • What student activities are you interested in?
    • What type of social environment do you prefer?
    • What type of housing do you require?
    • Are there certain medical and other support services that you will need?


    Financial Questions

    • How much can you comfortably afford to spend?
    • Will you need financial aid?
    • Do I qualify for scholarships?


    1. Speak to your parents, your school counselor and your case manager to create a list of schools that are a good “fit” based on the above mentioned attributes.   Visit these schools. Explore the disability services and supports that are available at each school.  At most schools it is the Office of Disability Services that would provide details regarding services and availability of accommodations. Other names for this department are Access Service or Office for Equity and Access.


    It is up to the student to decide to disclose a disability during the application process. It is not required.


    Examples of Disability Services Available at Colleges

    • Basic Accommodations
    • Enhanced services such as workshops on time management, access to a learning coach or an assistive technology specialist.
    • Fee based services such as  scheduled weekly meetings with a learning specialist or coach and specialized academic advising


    1.  Create a balanced list of schools to apply to that include likely, target and reach schools. Consider the disability services that would benefit you as select schools to apply to. Your counselor can assist with this process. The scattergrams in Naviance Student will also assist you in identifying how to classify the schools that you are applying to.

    Planning for Accommodations at College

    Nearly all colleges have to provide at least basic accommodations. Any school that accepts federal funds (such as Pell Grants) must provide accommodations for students with disabilities. Colleges do not create “plans” that include goals and progress monitoring. They will provide a “Letter of Accommodation” which will provide access to accommodations in your classes. An IEP or 504 plan that a student had in high school will not be carried over to the college.


    For students who are found eligible for accommodations a Letter of Accommodation will be developed by the Disability Services Department. This letter will list all accommodations that the student is eligible for. It is typically the responsibility of the student to provide this letter to their professor. The letter of accommodation will only provide students with accommodations (i.e. extended time, use of a computer). Colleges will not provide modification to courses (i.e. reduced workload, multiple choice exams instead of essay, etc..)


    Prior to Reaching Out to the Office of Disability Services

    • Students should work with their high school case manager to develop a list of accommodations that have been helpful for them during high school.
    • Visit the website for the Office of Disability Services to identify their requirements for applying for accommodations. There is typically a form that must be completed by the student.  Students will list the accommodations that they believe will most benefit them.
    • Documentation required may include:
      • Any learning disability or psychological testing completed by your high school or an outside medical professional.
      • A letter from a treating medical provider diagnosing a disability (ex: medical, visual, hearing, psychological)