Five college planning tips for students with learning disabilities

At Collegewise, parents sometimes ask us if colleges will consider the fact that a student has a documented learning disability.  And while the degree of consideration depends on how personal each college’s evaluation of their applicants gets, there are a lot of things LD students can do to help their chances of admission to the right schools.

Here are five college planning tips for LD kids.

1. Don’t let your disability affect your effort. 

If you want colleges to look beyond your transcript and consider your disability, show them that you haven’t let it affect your effort to learn.  Challenge yourself as much as can.  Ask teachers for help.  Find creative ways to work around your learning disability.  Colleges know it’s those kids—the ones who work to overcome their challenges (even if they didn’t get “A’s”)–who will keep giving that effort and succeeding academically once they get to college.     

2. Ask for—and accept—help.

Part of managing a learning disability means asking for and accepting help when you need it.   So visit your teacher after class when you have questions. Ask your counselor for advice about classes you should take, colleges you should consider, and whether or not you qualify for extended testing time.  If you’re really struggling in a class, tell your parents that you’re having a hard time and ask if they can help you find a good tutor.  Don’t worry about seeming too dependent on other people.  There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it, especially if you’re appreciative and willing to work hard. 

3. Maximize your academic strengths.

Do you have a particular class or subject that you really enjoy, maybe where your learning disability seems to hold you back less than other times?  Maximize those opportunities by doing your best work.   If you struggle with reading and writing but have always loved math, take challenging math courses.  Be especially engaged in your math classes by raising your hand and asking questions.  Take an extra math class over the summer at a local community college.  Colleges are always looking for areas of academic spark, and this is particularly important for students who are working to overcome learning disabilities.    

4. Find the right colleges.

Some LD students want to select their schools based on name, location, or other factors and don’t want to look into special LD support services or programs.  That might be fine for some students, but remember that consideration of your learning disability goes both ways.  If you’re not willing to factor in your disability when choosing colleges, it’s not fair to expect those schools to consider it when they evaluate you.  Think—and be honest—about whether or not you need colleges with LD support.  Be specific about exactly what kind of services you need.  And look into colleges that are known to have strong programs for LD kids. The more challenging your learning disability has been for you, the more you should consider it when you pick your colleges.   

5.  Be willing to share your LD story.

If you want colleges to understand your particular challenges, share your story with them.  Not just by mentioning it in one line on an application, but by writing an essay, or talking about it in an interview, or asking your counselor to tell them about it in a letter of recommendation.  And what should you share?  Everything listed above.  Tell colleges about your efforts to overcome your disability, the people who’ve helped you along the way, and the areas where you’ve done your best academic work.  Explain your thought process in picking your particular schools, how your LD played into that decision, and what you plan to do to be academically successful once you get there.  Your counselor can give you good advice about the best way to share your story with each particular college.  But if you want them to consider it, you’ll need to share it some way. 

There are plenty of colleges out there that can give LD kids a great college experience.  But you can improve your chances of finding and getting accepted to the right one for you by following these tips. 


  1. says

    Thanks for sharing this. For my part, I would like to go to the schools and see their policies and programs on students with learning disabilities that is also applicable to children with disabilities going to schools.