Disability and College Admission
How should a student apply for accommodations from ACT and SAT if they have a documented learning disability?
Contact your high school counselor. Chances are they’ve had to do that before. If not, go to either www.act.org or www.collegeboard.com and use their search box to search for “disability”. Both sites have lots of detailed information posted.
When in the college application process do you recommend disclosing a learning disability?
Discuss your disability with the Student Disability Services office at the college. They should know if there is anything special you need to do. There is no place on the application to indicate that you have a disability (it is illegal to ask pre-Admission). Although it CAN’T be used against you, it is difficult to ignore information once provided, and puts you and the college in an awkward position. Whether you have a disability or not has no bearing on the established admission criteria.
Concerns re: high school grades or ACT scores obtained without accommodations may be relevant. It may be appropriate to identify ‘pre-’ and ‘post-‘ diagnosis/accommodations to highlight the difference in performance. If accommodations were provided and/or there is no concern re: admissibility, no mention of ‘disability’ is necessary.
Once you get to college, it’s another matter entirely! Even if you don’t want accommodations or don’t think you need them, you should still register with your college’s Student Disability Services office. You can locate them by searching your school’s web site, or by asking at your academic advisor’s office or the counseling center. You should be able to self-identify but decide later about appropriate accommodations and if you want professors notified.
At the school where I work, students have professional staff available for consultation, access to a number of resources, and the ability to have letters sent to faculty on their behalf. These letters can verify the appropriate documentation is on file, explain how the disability might affect the student’s academic performance, and offer assistance in clarifying the student’s needs – basically opening a dialog on the subject. Too often students desperately need the accommodation in order to show their true capabilities, but because they haven’t registered, they cannot be accommodated until the appropriate process is completed (self-identification, meet w/ student & review documentation, identify appropriate accommodations) – and that might take a while.
Another suggestion on this front relates to medications. Unless you are under the supervision of a medical professional, don’t stop or cut back on any medications you might be taking to manage your disability. When starting college, students sometimes make the decision that they no longer need or want the medicine that has worked for some time. In many cases, the students are wrong in their assessment that it is no longer needed. That can cause significant academic problems. If you wish to stop, please do it under medical supervision.
Special thanks to Michael Shuttic, former Coordinator of Student Disability Services at Oklahoma State University, for his help on this column.
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