What to do BEFORE college Acceptance?

For students with learning disabilities (LD) making a successful transition to college is a multi-year process and a team effort that requires input from the student, parents, school personnel, and other professionals.   Ideally, transition planning for college begins when a student enters high school to maximize options as they move through the next four years.  It takes a 4 year plan to get into a 4 year college!

Step 1:  Create your Transition Plan

The below timeline are high level recommendations of activities to complete leading up to High School graduation.

High School Timeline of Recommended Activities:

Grade Activity/Task
9th /10th
  • Know the graduation requirements and stay on top of them throughout high school
  • Get involved in an after-school activity (sports, drama, music, school clubs, volunteer work, etc.)
  • Discuss options for after high school (for example, gap year, employment, vocational school, community college, or four-year university.
  • Develop self-advocacy skills.
  • Make sure the student understands and can articulate his or her learning struggles and why accommodations are needed. Students should actively participate in IEP meetings and practice self-advocacy skills in those meetings.
  • Explain strengths and weaknesses to the student to develop his or her understanding for more effective self-advocacy.
  • Focus on one or two after-school activities
  • Prepare for standardized testing (by the end of the year):
    • Apply for accommodations; and
    • Register for the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) or if offered in your area, the ACT’s equivalent preliminary test
  • Register for SAT or ACT.
  • Investigate colleges (make list)
  • Make a list of criteria for selecting a college (for example, class size, availability of support services, and finances) with the help of parents and school personnel.
  • Encourage participation in extracurricular and leadership activities as well as community service. Admission counselors are looking for applicants who are actively engaged in their schools and communities.
  • Visit prospective schools (by spring).
  • Eliminate some schools to shorten list of prospective of schools before applying.
  • Finalize applications by mid-November.
  • Communicate regularly with school administration to be certain that the student has the academic requirements needed to graduate from high school and apply to the colleges he or she wishes to attend.

(Support from parents and school personnel is very important at this stage. Students with organizational challenges may find it daunting to simultaneously secure letters of reference, write essays, and complete forms while also keeping up with regular academic demands.)


(summer after)

  • Develop independent living skills (for example, refilling medications and doing laundry).
  • Communicate regularly with the appropriate office at the college of choice to secure accommodations prior to arriving in the fall. Once on campus, students will need to learn to access various resources and implement strategies such as maintaining a calendar, using the library, and becoming involved in study groups.

Source: IDA Fact Sheet


Accommodations for SAT and ACT


Step 2:  Picking out Colleges:

College Research Questions

  • Academic Programs of Interest
  • Teaching Approaches
  • Class Size
  • Disability Services
  • Campus Resources and Support
  • counseling center
  • health center
  • writing center
  • math center
  • tutoring services
  • procedures for waiving or substituting requirements
  • Acceptance criteria – Know your goal.

Good online sources:




It is important to understand the requirements to be accepted to a college.   Your High School transition plan should be built to satisfy the goals of a college acceptance criteria.  As an example…here is the University of Oregon‘s Acceptance criteria (2019).  Minimum GPA:  A minimum college grade point average of 2.25 is required of transfer applicants, and 2.5 if you are a non-resident.

A. Graduate from a standard or accredited high school.  Check to see if your high school is on the list of regional accreditors.
B. Earn a C– or better in 15 college preparatory courses
  • English—4 years. All four years should be in preparatory composition and literature with emphasis on and frequent practice in writing expository prose.
  • Mathematics—3 years. Must include first-year algebra and two additional years of college-preparatory mathematics, including Algebra II (or equivalent) or higher. An advanced mathematics course is highly recommended in your senior year. One year of either algebra or geometry taken prior to ninth grade are acceptable.
  • Science—3 years. Must include a year each in two fields of college-preparatory science such as biology, chemistry, physics, or earth and physical science. One year of laboratory science is recommended.
  • Social Studies—3 years. Complete three years of social studies from such areas as global studies, history, or social studies electives.
  • Second language—2 years. The UO offers several options for meeting the second-language requirement.
C. Submit your official high school transcripts.
Transcripts should show courses through at least the end of eleventh grade. Upon graduation, submit a final transcript confirming graduation and showing all academic course work.
D. Submit SAT or ACT scores.
We accept SAT Reasoning Test or ACT. We prefer scores to be sent directly from the testing service, but we do accept scores reported on official high school transcripts or reported by the high school counselor on the paper application for admission. If you plan to participate in intercollegiate athletics, however, we must receive your scores from the testing service. When you take the test, list the UO as one of your score recipients. Our school code number for the SAT Reasoning Test is 4846; our code for the ACT is 3498. Learn more about the 2016 SAT redesign.
E. Submit an application essay.
The UO is interested in learning more about you. Write an essay of 650 words or less that shares information that we cannot find elsewhere on your application. Any topic you choose is welcome. Some ideas you might consider include your future ambitions and goals, a special talent, extracurricular activity, or unusual interest that sets you apart from your peers, or a significant experience that influenced your life. If you are applying to the UO’s Robert D. Clark Honors College, feel free to resubmit your honors college application essay.

Source: https://admissions.uoregon.edu/freshmen/requirements

Step 3:  Applying for College

  • Update documentation of LD
  • Discuss whether to disclose LD/ADD or not- does diagnosis explain transcript of test scores?
  • Visit institutions if possible
  • Make appointments with disability services office (are you comfortable there?)
  • Write about your strengths in your application – show self-knowledge
  • Consider a portfolio admission process



End notes:

What Colleges are best for students with Dyslexia?

  1. There are two colleges in the US that I know of, whose missions are to specifically serve students with learning disabilities. They have both been frequent exhibitors at IDA conferences.They are Beacon College in Florida https://www.beaconcollege.edu and Landmark College in Vermont. https://www.landmark.edu/about
  2. There are private organizations, separate from colleges, that offer coaching and support for students with learning disabilities to help prepare them for the challenge of college and continued support as they progress through their programs of choice. One such group is College Living Experience. https://experiencecle.com
  3. There are several colleges and universities that have transition programs for freshman and/or continuing extra support within their traditional college programs. You can find various lists of these programs by googling “college programs for students with learning disabilities. UNDERSTOOD has a list of the “top 15”, for instance.
  4. All colleges and universities have, or should have, an Office of Student Support that provides services, accommodation assistance, counseling, etc for students with disabilities.
  5. All colleges and universities have, or should have, academic (writing and math support centers and tutoring referrals), mental health counseling and health care offices for all students.
  6. Community Colleges have many affordable, non-credit classes to bolster academic skills.
  7. Online and self-paced classes and Universal Design for Learning principals have been embraced by many institutions of high ed for much longer than in K-12 programs.



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