Going to College When You Have a Disability

If you have been receiving support services in high school for a personal disability, you may want to continue receiving services to help you during your college experience.

In high school, you may have received extended time on tests, use of a computer for essays, a reader, a listening device, or some other accommodation. These services, if you have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, were mandated in high school under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

Once you are in college, your parent's legal authority has ended, and you must advocate for yourself. Advocating for yourself includes knowing everything about your disability, speaking up for yourself, and making decisions for yourself. Many colleges have resources available for you, although you must find out about these services yourself; no one will contact you.

Before you complete high school, your parents can ask for a close-out meeting, where your family and the professionals you have been working with in high school can discuss what services, if any, you feel you need in college.

It's very important that you obtain current (usually within one year) psycho-educational testing (consisting of cognitive and academic achievement tests), which you can provide to colleges. You should also know the name of your specific disability, whether it is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a learning disability, a physical disability, or another type of disability. How does the disability impact your learning and your overall life? Will you be able to manage living on campus, or would you be better off commuting to a college?

You do not need to identify yourself as a student with a disability in the admissions process, unless you want to or you are applying to a special program for students with disabilities. Once you are admitted, however, you should make an appointment with the Office of Disability Services (called different offices in various colleges) and sit down with these professionals to discuss your needs in college.

Most colleges offer some type of disability support service. Others offer full programs with higher fees, depending on what type of services you require. Some colleges are exclusively for students with disabilities, such as Landmark College in Vermont. Landmark describes itself as a college for high potential students with learning disabilities and ADHD.

You may decide you do not need any services in college, and you could function very well on your own. However, you may want to inform your professors so they are aware of your disability. The choice is yours, but you should become educated about your disability before choosing a college.