College Preparation

Typical steps to prepare for college

There are a number of steps that students traditionally take to prepare for college, including:

  1. Keeping track of admission deadlines
  2. Visting colleges
  3. Registering for appropriate tests (PSAT, SAT)
  4. Filling out  (online) applications
  5. Learning about financial aid options 
  6. Requesting letters of recommendation from teachers and other adults
  7. Writing a personal essay for the college application
  8. Sending in the application by due date
  9. Checking with college to make sure application is complete

Frequency Asked Questions about the SATs

  • Do students with disabilities have to take college admissions tests such as the SAT?
    Not all colleges require test scores as part of the admissions packet, and some special college programs for students with disabilities do not either. However, it is important to be aware whether or not these scores are necessary when applying to specific colleges.
  • What should students with disabilities be aware of as they prepare for college admissions tests?
    1. If a student's documentation clearly states that his or her disability directly impacts test performance, he or she should apply for testing accommodations.
    2. There are a variety of accommodations available to take the test.
    3. The College Board requires that any accommodations request in access of 100% additional time (double time) be accompanied by a student's IEP or 504 plan.
    4. Test scores are no longer flagged as being taken differently, so the college admissions director is not aware which students took tests with accommodations.

For more information:
College Board Application Process
Book chapter
Banarjee, M. & Brinckerhoff, L.C. ( 2010). Helping students with disabilities navigate the college admissions process. In S. Shaw, J. W. Madaus & Dukes, L.L., Preparing students with disabilities for college success: A practical guide to transition planning. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing Co.

Preparing for Differences Between High School and College

  • What should students with disabilities expect to be different about college?
    College brings higher expectations than high school. All college students are expected to do academic work, manage academic and personal schedules, and seek help as needed.
  • What are some of examples of specific differences?
    • Laws: In high school, a student's education is guided by the IEP and the focus is helping students with disabilities succeed in their classes. It is the responsibility of the school to identify a student's disability. In college, a student's accommodation plan is designed to help them gain access to college courses, buildings, and activities, but does NOT ensure academic success. Also, in college, students decide for themselves whether or not to disclose their disability.
    • Self-advocacy: In high school, students are encouraged to speak up about help they might need for school, but it is also expected that teachers and parents will do most of the advocacy. In college, students are expected to speak up and advocate for themselves. In fact, parents are not allowed to speak for a son or daughter without the student's permission.
    • Independence: In high school, it is expected that students with disabilities might need some help to meet class expectations and manage their schedule. In college, students with disabilities are expected to complete all course assignments, whether or not they use accommodations to complete work.
  • Where can students learn more about these differences?