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College Planning for Students with Disabilities

College Friends

Preparing for College

Understanding the Importance of Self-Advocacy

  • As your youth prepares for college, they will become responsible for understanding their own needs and requesting supports and services to help them succeed. In college, parents are no longer automatically involved in education planning.

  • A self-advocate is someone who can make choices based on their preferences and wants; make decisions that impact their life; take risks and assume responsibility for their actions, and advocate for themselves and others.

  • Youth and young adults with disabilities need to understand their disability in order to advocate for themselves. 

  • Youth and young adults should review their information with parents and their school (IEP) team to better understand their disability and its effect on learning. 

  • Sample questions to ask:

    • "What is my disability?"

    • "How does it affect how I learn?"

    • "What are my academic strengths?"

    • "How do I learn best?"

    • "What strategies can I use to help me learn?" 

Understanding the Importance of Self-Care

  • At college, there won't be someone checking in with you (or your youth). It is important that you (or your child) can independently get enough sleep, eat a balanced meal, do laundry, practice good personal hygiene, take prescribed medications, and seek medical attention when they are not feeling well. If your child needs support in any of these areas, is there someone who can support them while they are attending college (such as living at home and commuting for classes, peer mentoring, daily check ins)?

Understanding the Importance of Self-Control

  • With less parental oversight, you or your child will be making more decisions independently. Are you prepared to make good choices when faced with tough choices or pressured to try something? 

It's Time to Apply to Colleges:

What To Consider During the Admissions Process?

  • Think about what accommodations you (or your youth) might need for college entrance exams, such as the SAT, ACT, ASSEST, or COMPASS

    • Plan accordingly! College entrance exams usually take place in the spring of junior year of high school or Fall of senior year​

    • Read more about accommodations and how to apply for them here:

  • Be aware of requirements and deadlines! Every college and university has different admissions requirements and deadlines. It may be helpful to keep a list of this information. 

Selecting a College

  • Most colleges and universities have an office of disability services. You may want to meet with a coordinator at the college to discuss services and accommodations offered at the school. While there are standard services and accommodations for students with disabilities, each college is different. It is important to know what is offered at the college you (or your youth) is interested in. 

  • Sample questions to ask the office of disability services: 

    • What documentation is needed to obtain accommodations? How current must it be? Does the documentation need to come from a specific provider (ex. MD, Psychologist/PhD)?​

    • How is confidential information handled? Who will know about my disability and my accommodations? 

    • Is tutoring provided? What is the cost?

    • Does this college provide waivers or substitutions for certain courses?

    • Is there a support group on campus for students with disabilities?

    • What adaptive technologies do you offer?

  • Be Prepared to answer questions about your disability and needs. You may be asked to describe ways your disability interferes with your learning, what types of accommodations and services are helpful to you, and what types of supports you are looking for in college. ​​

You Have Been Accepted into a College!

What Now?

  • The process of applying for accommodations in college is separate from the college application process and usually happens after you have been accepted.

  • First, meet with the office of disability services at your college to request and obtain accommodations. 

    • Potential accommodations include:

      • Notetakers, tutoring, editing services​

      • Textbooks and educational materials in alternative formats

      • Access to educational materials in advance

      • Test-taking alternatives: extended time, oral tests, distraction reduced environment/alternative testing sites, elimination of certain test taking items such as scantrons, use of computer for test taking, spell check devices

      • Access to adaptive equipment, such as a tape recorder to audio record lectures

      • Advanced access to register for courses

      • Extensions for assignments

      • Permission to take less than full-time credits and still be eligible to receive financial aid

  • Familiarize yourself with your new campus

    • Understand the layout of the campus, locate where your classes will be​

    • Some schools offer a summer transition program so you can have extra time to prepare and familiarize yourself with your new environment

Timeline for College Planning

Explore your Options

  1. Exploring your interests, talents, and abilities - Grades 7-9

  2. Exploring postsecondary options - Grades 8-10

  3. Exploring opportunities through job shadowing - Grades 9-12

Planning and Preparing for Postsecondary Education
  1. Planning and preparing necessary academics to apply/be accepted to your preferred program - Grades 9-12

  2. Planning for a career - Grades 9-12

Exploring Postsecondary Options - Grades 9-10
  1. Apprenticeship

  2. Technical College

  3. 2-year College

  4. 4-year College

Selecting a Postsecondary Institution- Grades 10-11
  1. Identify your top choices 

Applying to a Postsecondary Institution- Grades 11-12
  1. Apply to your top choices. Be sure to check individual deadlines as every school has different requirements


Conducting a College Search: Questions to Ask College Programs

College Planning for Students with Disabilities

Accommodations on College Board Exams

Accommodations for ACT Exam

Additional Resources

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