The information below is provided to parents and students to help you start your college search. Please scroll through each section to get some ideas and resourses available to you.

Watch The College Planning Video

College Planning Video

Helping Your Student Pack their Disability for College: The challenges of college planning can seem daunting for students with disabilities and their parents. This interactive session helps students and parents understand the key factors to consider when choosing colleges, completing applications, writing essays, seeking accommodations, and transitioning to college.

Presented by Janet Thibeau.
Janet Thibeau is the principal of BTA Education, an educational advocacy and college consulting firm based in West Newbury, MA. Ms. Thibeau also serves as the Northeast Regional Representative for the International Dyslexia Association.

Resources for Applying to College for Students with a Disability

Students with a disability have many resources available to help them with selecting a college, taking standardized tests, and, completing applications. Here are a few resources to get you started.

College Board:
The College Board website has everything you need to know about PSAT, SAT, Subject Tests and AP exams. The site allows you to do college searches based on your criteria as well as a career information search section. Go to the Student Section and click on Services for Students with Disabilities for information about test accommodations. If you are applying for accommodations, start early and understand the requirements and deadlines. Your application for accommodations are due at least 2 months prior to the test. Your special education teacher and guidance councilor will help with your application.

The ACT is an alternative to the SAT exam. Find information about accommodations under Students with Disabilities.

Eagle Hill School: Hardwick, MA This private school for students grade 8-12 with learning disabilities has created a very helpful, step by step guide for preparing for and helping your child with the college application process.

Federation for Children with Special Needs: Boston (617) 236-7210
Parents of students age 14-21 are encouraged to attend a two day transition training program sponsored by the Federation called: Planning a Life: Making the Most out of High School. More information is available at: Information on Transition Planning and IEP goals for students age 14-21 is at

Disability Law Center: Boston (617- 723-8455)
Access a comprehensive guide to life after high school

Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA):
From the menu on the left, go to the section for Adults and scroll to the Post Secondary Options Section for articles on Transition, Assistive Technology, Advocating for Yourself etc.

Asperger’s Association Of New England (AANE): Watertown, MA (617) 393-3824
Several articles related to going to college

Suggested Reading

Here are just a few books to offer guidance
** Indicates that the book is available through the North Andover public library system

**The K&W Guide to College Programs & Services for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, 11th Edition by Princeton Review

College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities: Strategies and Tips to Make the Most of Your College Experience
by Cynthia Simpson

**Applying to college for students with ADD or LD : a guide to keep you (and your parents) sane, satisfied, and organized through the admission process / by Blythe Grossberg

The Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum By: Jane Thierfeld Brown, Ed.D.

Succeeding in College With Asperger Syndrome by John Harpur, Maria Lawlor & Michael Fitzgerald

**Realizing the College Dream with Autism or Asperger Syndrome: A Parent’s Guide to Student Success by Ann Palme

**Developing College Skills in Students with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome by Sarita Freedman

7 Steps for Success – High School to College Transition Strategies for Students with Disabilities by Elizabeth C. Hamblet

Transition from High School to College

Important materials for the student to have and understand

During High School: the student should read and understand his/her records including-

  • Formal testing done that documents the disability
  • Assessments that identify your learning style and strengths and needs
  • The current IEP or 504 Plan and Progress Report
  • List of accommodations needed in school
  • Medical records that document a medical condition that will necessitate accommodations
  • High school transcript
  • SAT and ACT test results
  • Resume with extracurricular activities and work/volunteer experience

College Search: Questions to ask

  • What documentation is needed to qualify for disability services?
  • How resent should my testing / evaluations be?
  • How do I request the academic accommodations that I will need ?
  • What disability services are available and who should I contact?
  • Is there a tutoring center and how do I request services?
  • Is there a writing center that will help me with assignments?
  • Is there a peer mentor program?
  • Will the health services department be able to meet my medical needs?
  • Will the counseling center provide services my need?
  • What dorm/housing options are available? Can I move in early or can I move my stuff in early to avoid the stress of move in day?
  • What accommodations can be made in the dorms?
  • Does the Disability Services Department offer a separate orientation program for students to learn about special services?
  • Will accommodations be needed to participate in extra curricular activities?


What is the Difference Between High School and College for Students with Learning Differences?

High School: The school district is responsible for identifying a student’s disability and creating the appropriate environment for the student to learn as documented in the I.E.P.

College: The student must identify his/her disability to the college and to advocate for the necessary accommodations from the disability resource center and faculty. The I.E.P. does not exist.

High School: A student is eligible for accommodations based upon a diagnosis.

College: An updated psycho-educational assessment, typically including a WAIS test and an achievement battery (typically, although this is determined by each school) is necessary for a student to qualify for the necessary accommodations.

High School: Parents act as primary advocates and receive official reports from the school.

College: Students must be able to self-advocate for his/her needs and may or may not give permission for the school to communicate with parents.

High School: The faculty and school may establish study halls and study times.

College: Students must be able to plan and manage their time independently and/or seek out any necessary assistance.

High School: Attendance in school is mandatory and monitored.

College: Colleges and professors vary on attendance requirements. While some believe that it is a student’s responsibility to attend, others factor it into the student’s grade.

High School: Schools may be required to adjust a course to meet a student’s needs.

College: Course adjustments or reduced course loads are at the discretion of the college. Accommodations to provide access to course material is required under the law but modifications to the curriculum are not.

High School: Students live at home.

College: Students who plan to live away for college should contact the housing office to see if the dorms meet your needs and what accommodations can be made. For example, some schools offer quiet floors, single rooms, early move in options, and preferred room placements.

Adapted from sources from the University of North Carolina and the University of New Hampshire. Provided by Eagle Hill School.


Post Secondary Options for Students with Learning Disabilities, High Functioning Autism, and Intellectual Disabilities

Two or Four Year College or University: All colleges and universities are required to offer at least basic services and accommodations for students with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many colleges also provide a learning center with a variety of academic supports. In addition to basic services, some colleges have a specific program for students with learning disabilities which provides comprehensive supports. These types of programs generally require a separate admission process and additional program costs. When you are looking at school, it is important to understand the level of services your child will require and if that matches the options at the college or university you are considering.

Post Graduate Year: For students not ready for college, a one year post graduate year may be a good option. Post graduate programs provide the opportunity to live away from home, get additional academic learning to be better prepared for college.
Examples of post graduate programs:

  • Themes Academy (At Mitchell College, CT)
  • Vermont Academy – Saxtons River VT
  • Cushing Academy- Ashburnham, MA


Alternatives to College: Some students prefer to take classes that are non-credit courses but in a college type setting. These programs offer life skills, vocational skills curriculum and independent living opportunities to students to work on transition goals. Go to the Think College website to search for programs

Examples of alternative programs include:

  • Threshold (Lesley University) Cambridge
  • Dynamy – Worcester
  • Mansfield Hall- Burlington VT
  • College Internship Program (CIP): Several locations including Lee, MA
  • Salem State University: EMBARK
  • North Shore Community College: Bridges to the Future :
  • Middlesex Community College: Transition Program
  • MassBay Community College: Transitional Scholars Program
  • Chapel Haven (CT):
  • Riverview School GROW Program with Cape Cod Community College (Sandwich, MA)

Summer Programs: Many colleges offer high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to attend summer programs to learn about college life prior to applying.

For example:

More Schools, Colleges Support Learning Disabilities

Reprinted from the Learning Disabilities Association of America website:

As early as the latest school semester, schools and colleges have started to support students with language-based learning disabilities.

Language-based learning disabilities refers to the various issues with ‘age-appropriate reading, writing and/or spelling.’ This learning disability doesn’t impair and/or change a person’s intelligence, as people with various degrees of intelligence do exhibit symptoms from the condition.

The signs and symptoms from language-based learning disabilities stem from difficulties with spoken and written language. Therefore, children and/or adults with language-based learning disabilities may exhibit symptoms similar to that of dyslexia and dysgraphia, in addition to difficulties with verbal-based communication.

Today’s colleges and schools are finding solutions to help support prospective and current students with these learning difficulties, providing them a chance to succeed in primary, secondary and higher education.

A higher solution

Students with learning disabilities, like the aforementioned, now have several support options in college and other higher education institutions.

As an example, colleges across the country have implemented special programs that support students with learning disabilities. Many of these college-level programs provide additional assistance through peer-to-peer tutoring, plentiful learning resources and direct support from educators.

Traditional universities and colleges, in fact, have opened supplemental programs for students with learning disabilities throughout the past two years, as recently as the current fall school semester. At least 350 programs now exist across the United States for students with learning disabilities.

The K&W Guide to College Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities or AD/HD currently publishes 362 comprehensive programs, as of this year.

Disability offices at various colleges and universities are also improving their services. Their non-profit services are now appearing at more campuses around the country, generally in the form of unaffiliated care centers.

Dedicated institutions who near-exclusively serve students with learning disabilities are also growing. Many, in fact, are introducing dedicated four-year degree programs for students.

Brent Betit, the co-founder of Landmark College in Vermont, commented in a recent interview that, ‘This is the best time [ever] for students who learn differently to go to college.’ Betit helped establish the Landmark College, a learning institution with a focus on aiding students with various learning disabilities.

Since then, Landmark College is one of many learning institutions with a focus on helping students with learning disabilities learn better.

Betit also mentioned that, ‘there are now better programs available than any time in the past.’ He attributed the growth of learning disability programs in higher education to the ‘entrepreneurial nature of the country,’ which allowed businesses to grow to accommodate the needs of learning-disabled students out there.

Several of these programs are hosted at the University of Arizona, Florida’s Lynn University and Beacon College, which also provides a comprehensive program for students with disabilities.

The costs of higher education

Although many higher learning institutions are now accommodating students with various language-based learning disabilities, parents and self-sufficient students face financial problems regarding the aforementioned programs.

Many programs for learning disabilities are non-profit and available at many higher learning institutions. Despite that, students and parents have to cover the costs that accumulate from a standard two-year or four-year degree.

For-profit providers, too, are causing financial issues for learning disabled students. There are a growing number of for-profit providers who charge more than $40,000 for their services. The growth of such services worry parents, students and educators who want to bring non-profit programs to learning-disabled students.

Students with learning disabilities, in fact, are generally a minority population at most four-year learning institutions. According to recent data from the National Center for Special Education Research, 19 percent of students with disabilities choose to enroll in a four-year college and/or university.

Due to this, there aren’t many specialized on-campus programs for students with language-based learning disabilities. These students usually don’t have the legal support to automatically gain learning assistance in college and/or other higher education institutions.

Although students have to face those difficulties, colleges and other learning institutions are now providing help to accommodate students with financial aid and other support for their studies.

The benefits of higher learning

In recent times, accommodating and treating students with learning disabilities has become easier for college-level educators.

Many schools like Dean College, near Boston, Massachusetts, have students arrive with undiagnosed or previously diagnosed learning disorders. To accommodate their student body, these learning institutions adapt.

Although these institution primarily offer regular college-level coursework, their supplemental academic coaching programs help learning disabled students keep up with their coursework. Many of these classes and programs are tailored to address a student’s learning challenges, which in turn, helps them overcome these challenges while enrolled.

Programs like these encourage students to work directly with professors to address their learning challenges. Modern technology also plays a role with higher education learning for learning-disabled students, as more devices make their way into the classroom.

In closing, support for students with language-based and other learning disabilities is now more prevalent in higher learning institutions. As technology advances, educators and students will find newer ways to successfully help them conquer learning challenges.