As a student with disabilities, you face unique considerations as you plan for college. These steps will help you through the process:
Step 1: Understand the importance of self-advocacy
Becoming a self-advocate in high school will help you succeed in college. In college, you will be responsible for identifying and requesting support services. Parents aren’t automatically involved with your college education, and most colleges prefer working directly with the student.
As a “self-advocate” you communicate your needs with logical and positive language. To be an effective self-advocate, you must understand your disability, know how it impacts your learning, and become comfortable with describing your disability and academic-related needs to others. Follow these tips for becoming a self-advocate.
Step 2: Explore your career options
- Ask your school counselor and IEP manager about career interest inventories and a vocational assessment to help you identify your career interests. Ask how your learning needs may influence these career areas.
- Discuss career options with your parents/guardians and people working in jobs that interest you. Look into job shadowing, attend local career fairs, and explore volunteer opportunities in your areas of interest.
- Become involved in extracurricular activities. Volunteer and paid work can teach responsibility, reliability, and teamwork.
- Review the Exploring Careers section for additional career information.
Step 3: Prepare for college entrance and placement exams
- ACT/SAT entrance exams
You typically take the ACT and/or SAT entrance exams in the spring of your junior year and again in the fall of your senior year. The following links provide details about requesting accommodations for the ACT and the SAT.
- Accuplacer and Companion
If you plan to attend a community college, the school may require you to take a computer-based placement test called Accuplacer which tests your knowledge in math, reading, and writing. A paper-and-pencil version of the test, called Companion, is also available. For more information, visit Accuplacer.org. To request accommodations, contact your college’s test center.
Step 4: Narrow your college choices
Finding a college that meets your needs will require research, campus visits and asking the right questions. See the Selecting a College section for steps to follow.
Once you narrow your college choices, meet with the disability services coordinator at each college to determine services and accommodations that may be available. This will help you decide which college best meets your needs. To prepare for that meeting review these questions to ask the disabilities services coordinator and questions you may be asked.
Step 5: Apply for admission and financial aid
Ask your prospective colleges about deadlines and the process for applying for admission, financial aid and college-based scholarships. Ask about scholarships for students with disabilities.
After you apply for financial aid, inform the college of your disability-related expenses. Financial aid will not cover expenses already covered by assisting agencies. Possible disability-related expenses include:
- services for personal care attendants
- special education equipment related to your disability and its maintenance
- special transportation
- medical expenses relating directly to your disability not covered by insurance
If you need help with the financial aid process, contact EducationQuest Foundation.
Step 6: Select a college and request services
Once you select a college, you must perform these tasks to receive disability-related services:
Gather required documentation
- Request a copy of your high school IEP/504 Plan and your most
- Request an original copy of your diagnosis from your physician
or other psychological service provider.
Meet with the disability services coordinator
- Review the documentation and discuss possible accommodations.
- Keep in mind that federal guidelines do NOT state that all students
with a disability must receive ALL accommodations – especially
accommodations that would fundamentally change a college
program or impose an undue burden on the college.
Partner with the disability services coordinator and the course instructor to find accommodations that work best for you. Although the college may not always agree to your request for a specific accommodation, they are required by law to provide an effective accommodation.
IMPORTANT! You must request services from the disability services office each term or semester.
Step 7: Become familiar with the campus environment
- Register for campus orientation. The disability services coordinator may also provide a special campus orientation.
- Determine where to go and who to contact in case of an emergency. If you have special needs (especially medical needs) inform appropriate college personnel of any advance preparation that should be in place.
- Ask the admissions office if a summer transition program is offered.
- Obtain a copy of your class schedule and visit all buildings where your classes will be held to become familiar with locations and layout.
- Become familiar with parking facilities and procedures if you are commuting and will drive yourself.
- Consider signing a release of information so the school has permission to share information with your parents.