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Should I Disclose My Learning Disability on College Applications?

Disclosing your learning disability to colleges can be a hard step to take when you don't want to be defined by it. Here's why experts say it's a good idea.

Eric Endlich, PhD
Psychologist and Founder
Top College Consultants
The main reason to disclose a learning disability on your application is to explain something that might otherwise be puzzling to the admission committee, such as an unusual pattern of grades on your transcript or a large discrepancy between your grades and standardized test scores. If your grades improved in the middle of high school because you were diagnosed and began receiving the proper accommodations and services to aid your learning difference, that would be a good reason to mention your disability. The Common App has a section where you can include additional information like this that would be helpful to application readers.

Whether or not you disclose during the application process, once you’ve been accepted and put down a deposit at the college you plan to attend, reach out to the Disability Services Office (sometimes called the Accessibility Services Office or Learning Differences Office) and set up an appointment. You can provide any relevant documentation you have (e.g., neuropsychological evaluation, doctor’s letter) and discuss the accommodations and supports you’ll need. Speaking up now will pay off later! 

CX experts generic imageJessie Brumfiel
Director of College Counseling
Dunn School
This is a sensitive topic for students who don’t want to hurt their chances of admission and don’t want to be pinned with a label. The bottom line: the choice is yours to make. Certainly, you should talk honestly with the Learning Support Office at any college to determine if they can provide the resources you need. Many students choose to disclose their learning disability to the admission office in their application essay. There, you can explain how you’ve succeeded in the face of a learning challenge. This demonstrates that you have grit and fortitude and that ultimately your learning difference doesn’t hold you back. You also should take on the attitude that if the college isn’t supportive of LD students, you wouldn’t want to enroll there anyway. However, if you prefer not to reveal your LD to admission offices, that’s perfectly fine. You are under no obligation to do so. One point to keep in mind: just because you’re accepted to a university doesn’t mean you automatically can enroll in its programs for students with learning disabilities. For example, the University of Arizona requires a special application for its SALT program for students with ADHD.

For more helpful advice on learning differences, check out our College Diversity section.

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