Applying to College with a Disability
Applying to college shouldn’t be discouraging for students who are living with disabilities. Instead, these students should become familiar with the services and accommodations provided by post-secondary institutions.
The law requires any school, private or public, to provide resources and accommodations for students with disabilities. Some schools, such as The University of Iowa, provide exceptional services for students with disabilities while other schools may provide only the minimum amount of resources required. Therefore, students with a significant disability should research the availability of disability services as one of the main factors in choosing their college or university. The main goal of this research should be to discover the resources the institution provides and if the school can make reasonable accommodations to assist in the student’s learning.
Furthermore, all colleges and universities have an individual or an office on campus to coordinate support and accommodation for students with disabilities. Prospective students will benefit from speaking with this office about the admission process, how the school supports their impairment, and what other support services the college or university provides. It should be noted that this office is prohibited by law from notifying the admissions office that a student or parent contacted them.
The Application Process
Some students feel comfortable, including in their application the details of their disability, while others would rather wait to disclose their exceptionalities. By disclosing a disability, the student is allowing the school to understand anything unique on their application, like low test scores. In fact, just by applying to a university, students are demonstrating their dedication to growth and learning despite the challenges that come with a disability. Deans of Admissions at Ivy League schools have even said that disclosing disabilities can be helpful during the application process.
For some students, their disability is a central part of their application and admission essay. This is a decision unique to each student, but no applicant should be afraid that disclosing their disability will reduce their chances of being accepted into the school. Students should keep in mind that disclosing a disability does not give universities and colleges the right to refuse enrollment if the student meets the basic admission requirements (such as GPA and test scores).
Students with disabilities are half as likely to enroll in a four-year postsecondary college or higher education institution than their peers. Of course, this isn’t because they couldn’t excel at a university – in fact, 22 percent of college freshmen report that they have either a learning disability or a mental health disorder. These students should know that many campuses offer resources and services that can support their learning and even help them through the admissions process. By knowing the accommodations the student needs, they are setting themselves up for success during the application process. The opportunity to gain a college education is a possibility for every student of all abilities.