Which kinds of colleges are the best fit for a student with a learning disability?


Dave Nguyen, Education Consultant, College Lecturer, PhD

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The answer is the university that has the most programs in place to help a student with a learning disability. You should look up the percentage of students at your favorite schools that have learning disabilities. The more of such students a school has, the more it is prepared to have the appropriate number of staff and facilities to accommodate these students. Don’t just rely on the data published on a school’s website. Try searching independent websites, alumni forums, and talking to alumni.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Here is another list of schools noted for their programs for students with learning disabilities. This one highlights schools across the country, and also includes the contact information for liaisons so you can be in touch ahead of time about your particular areas of concern.

Elizabeth C. Hamblet, Learning Consultant, Columbia University

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As others have noted, learning disabilities encompass a wide range of abilities. The majority of students with learning disabilities should conduct their college search in the same way as their typical peers – by identifying schools that are a good fit because they have the major they want, are a good size for them, are located in the kind of setting they desire, have great food, etc. Once students have identified a number of schools that suit them, they can look at the disability services at each college.

It is important for you to know that every college in the country, including those in the Ivy League, has to provide some basic accommodations to students with disabilities. In college, students have to register with what is typically the office called “Disability Services” (other offices that don’t use the word “disability” may use names that include the words “access” “equity” “or “learning”). This typically requires filling out a form (it may require having a brief meeting with someone at the office) and submitting “documentation,” or paperwork that shows that the student has a learning or other type of disability. Students also have to say what accommodations they are requesting. Once students are approved for services, the office will decide – on an individual basis – what accommodations they will receive. Many students will be found eligible for accommodations such as extended time to take tests, permission to record lectures, and permission to use a laptop to take notes. Some with reading disabilities will get their texts converted to a format where their computers can read the texts aloud to them. But each decision is made based on the particulars of each student’s profile.

Another thing that is important to note is that some people refer to the provision of these services as a “program.” As I said, all colleges have to provide at least basic accommodations, but I wouldn’t call those a program. Some do have programs for students with learning disabilities and/or ADHD for which they charge a fee. But many students will do fine with just basic accommodations. Students who require a lot of assistance to organize themselves and navigate through assignments might benefit from a fee-for-service program. Students who have been diagnosed with a learning disability toward the end of high school and have not yet learned strategies to help them might benefit from such a program, too. Again, students should think about what level of support they think they’ll need.

The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences offers some basic information about the services at a few hundred colleges (no guide could include every college in the country). You can also search the Internet for lists that college advisors have posted of schools that they think provide supportive services. As I said, every college will provide what some guides refer to as Level I (basic) services. Some schools go beyond the minimum. For example, some schools offer workshops, have a full-time adaptive technology specialist, and even offer students sessions with a learning specialist or coach – for free (these might be called Level II services). Students considering Level III (fee-for-service) programs should research these carefully to make sure that they think the services offered justify the fee. For instance, they might want to make sure that the people who work in these programs as “specialists” or “coaches” have the kind of credentials they would expect when paying to meet with them.

For students who think that they need a very specialized environment, there are two schools dedicated solely to the education of students with learning disabilities and ADHD. One is Landmark College in Vermont and the other is Beacon College in Florida.

Jill Berkowicz, Educator, Adjunct Professor, Author

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The term "learning disability" is a broad one. Depending upon not only the learning disability but how well the student has mastered achievement, learned how to accommodate for difficulties, has achieved independence, etc. makes a difference. That said, these are three resources that can be helpful in understanding the programs offered and how they might best meet the needs of your child. At this age, as for all students, making these decisions along with your child is essential. Your child's guidance counselor is a good person to partner with as you and your child take this investigative journey together.




Charlotte Mason, My name is Charlotte and I am writer

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Is there no special colleges for such people? I always think that there are some special organozations or something else

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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I find the state system I work in to be supportive of students. You will want to be sure that you see what services the school offers before applying. In the PA State System, students can have teachers alerted to all kinds of student needs.

Anonymous, Former graduate student

As many of the other experts mentioned, "learning disability" is fairly broad. That being said, I'm sure many universities have programs for students with learning disabilities. I know at my college, there was a program where other students could take notes for other students through a learning disabilities program. Students with learning disabilities were also offered a number of other benefits. Rather than aiming for colleges that best accommodate students with learning disabilities, I would recommend contacting colleges that you or your student(s) would be interested in attending and asking about what programs they offer for students with learning disabilities.

The programs and benefits for students with learning disabilities may vary, but reputable universities should offer some sort of program to help out your student(s). Here is a website that lists some college programs for kids with learning disabilities:


Pamela Petrease Felder, Learning Disabilities and Differences

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I think it's important to consider the way an institution supports and/or hinders the experiences of students with learning disabilities. An examination of the policies and practices addressing the needs of these students is critical when thinking about fit.

Lisa Friedman, Inclusive Educator, Religious School Director, writer & speaker

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I agree that "learning disability" can be a very broad category. There are a wide range of programs for students of all abilities at colleges, including those that need more significant support. Knowing your child and his/her needs well will help you begin to narrow down the search process. Also specifically knowing areas of strength and weakness will help. For example, a student with a learning disability in reading may excel in math or science. Or a student with a learning disability in math may excel in history or public speaking. Knowing exactly what type of program a student will want to explore while also knowing where he/she needs support will help narrow down the search, as well. Good luck!

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