When you add learning disabilities (LD) to the mix during the college admissions process, the search can go from plain confusing to utterly bewildering.
Parents of students with learning disabilities must do more homework. Their questions encompass the traditional parental concerns of security, drinking on campus and dining options but additionally, they need to understand each college’s academic environment.
In the jargon of learning disabilities, this is referred to as accommodations and support programs.
Several colleges have programs with staff to help meet the needs of students with learning disabilities. Services can include individualized or modified coursework, academic monitoring, test and classroom accommodations, tutors, note-takers, etc. Students are also frequently asked to sign contracts and extra fees for these programs are charged. In an effort to ease students’ adjustment to college life and retain them, many of these comprehensive programs go beyond the classroom and collaborate with Student Life departments offering social support groups and programs in financial management.
Less comprehensive services or “Coordinated Services” are offered at almost all colleges.
A third category offers the least comprehensive services. Colleges providing these services are generally complying with the federal law that mandates reasonable accommodations for all students, with appropriate documentation.
Most colleges have writing centers and tutoring services that are offered to all students.
One of the biggest differences between college programs is the expectation for the role of the student. The comprehensive program is structured and similar to a high school environment. The other services are typically driven by the student.
If a student notices that they aren’t able to keep pace with the class, it is their responsibility to identify that they need help.
If a family is not sure if they need services, the big question is usually if they should disclose any disability in the application process. When asked directly, most colleges will state that acknowledging the disability will not impact the admissions decision.
In fact, almost all colleges state that a student must first be accepted into the college as a regular student before applying for any of the specialized programs.