April Maguire 4 min read Applying to College

Applying to College as a Student with an IEP

While it’s natural to feel overwhelmed when applying to colleges, the process is even more complicated for students with IEPs. Also known as individualized education programs, these public school documents enable students with learning challenges and disabilities to secure the special education support they need to succeed. Along with providing students with legal protections, IEPs enable them to secure certain accommodations, technologies, and other benefits, such as extra time on tests.

 

Families often make the mistake of assuming a student’s IEP will carry through to college. However, the truth is that these programs no longer apply at the college level. Many families also improperly evaluate students’ abilities both inside and outside the classroom, leaving them lost or unchallenged. Detailed, accurate communication is key if parents want to ensure their students have the necessary support to succeed in higher education.

 

How Many College Students Have Learning Disabilities?

 

As the parent of a student with a learning disability, it’s important to realize you’re not alone. As of 2013, around 11% of undergraduates reported having a disability. Unfortunately, studies show that only a third of those individuals graduate from their four-year college or university within eight years. Additionally, research reveals that students with IEPs participate in fewer extracurriculars than their counterparts, are more likely to feel excluded from social activities. If you want to ensure your high schooler has the best possible college experience, it’s important to take steps early on to help them adapt.

 

Communicate Early With Colleges

 

The process of communicating with colleges begins long before applications are due. Before spending the time and money to apply to a given school, check with the institution’s disability office to ensure they can accommodate your student and their specific needs. If you can’t get your questions answered over the phone, consider visiting the office in person to make sure you have all the requisite information. While most colleges provide some accommodations for students with learning disabilities, certain schools offer separate programs to support these individuals. Some of the best institutions for students with IEPs include the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California, American University, University of Arizona, and Rochester Institute of Technology.

 

Assess Technology

 

It’s not enough to evaluate what schools offer programs to support students with IEPs. Families should also consider what adaptive technologies are available to deal with health or learning-related difficulties. Along with asking about accommodations for students with learning disabilities, be sure to inquire about what criteria you need to meet to qualify. Additionally, you may want to ask about on-staff AT experts, assistive technology devices, and math and writing labs.

 

Some schools also have different requirements for students with disabilities. As a parent, consider asking whether a given college offers a transitional summer program to help new students acclimate to school. Additionally, schools may allow students with IEPs to bypass certain classes, like the foreign language requirement. Doing this helps ensure a seamless transition between high school and college, and gives your student the highest odds of success.

Want to know your real chances of admission?

Estimating your chance of getting into a college is not easy in today’s competitive environment. Thankfully, with our state-of-the-art software and data, we can analyze your academic and extracurricular profile and estimate your chances. Our profile analysis tool can also help you identify the improvement you need to make to enter your dream school.

 

Consider Test-Optional Schools

 

If your student has a learning disability, you might be concerned about how revealing this information will affect their odds of admission at top-choice schools. After all, IEPs are a sensitive subject for many families. While it’s natural to be hesitant about revealing a learning disability for fear of discrimination, the truth is that doing so allows students to share their experiences and explain any abnormalities in their application. For example, an applicant may have impressive grades and extracurriculars but low SAT scores because they struggle with test taking or language processing.

 

Wondering where to share learning disability information on your college application? For best results, include these details in the section asking for other relevant information. Disclosing this information gives such students a chance to share their full story, offering them a better shot at getting into their dream schools.

 

Additionally, students with IEPs may want to consider applying to test-optional schools that don’t require SAT or ACT scores. This could be especially helpful if their test scores are not as high as they had hoped, or are not in the middle 50% percent range of the schools on their list.

 

Consider Living at Home

 

College students deal with numerous challenges, not the least of which is the stress of living away from home for the first time. Along with managing their own workloads and schedule, students have to figure out how to live with a roommate, arrange for their own meals, and even do their own laundry. If your high schooler has a learning disability, you might want to choose a college that allows students to live either at home, or in the dorms. That way, they can make a change early in the semester if something isn’t working. Remember, you know your student better than everyone, so sit down with them and determine the best arrangement for their needs and goals.

 

Whether or not your student has an IEP, the college admissions process can be stressful. Recognizing that not all high schools offer families the same level of support on their college journey, CollegeVine created its Applications Program to provide expert counsel when you need it most. We pair every student with a hand-selected consultant who will be in your corner every step of the way, offering tips and suggestions. For more information on our services, call today or contact our team online.

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April Maguire
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.