L. Scott Lissner
you are reading this, I am going to assume that you have already
made a couple of decisions. I am assuming that you want to
go to college and that you have a number of reasons why (to
get a good job, to be a teacher, to play tennis, to be a doctor,
to meet new people, to choose a career, to play in the band,
etc.). Keep these reasons in mind as you begin to look at
colleges. These reasons will tell you what to look for as
you read about and visit colleges.
you should consider the things that you know you want from
a college. Does it have the academic programs you interested
in? Where is it located? What is the size of the student
body? Are there extra-curricular programs that you are interested
in (sports, clubs, service organizations, etc.)? What are
the costs? These are the same questions that everyone needs
to consider when choosing a college.
you generate a list of colleges there are more questions
to ask. How are academic programs structured? What general
support services (tutoring, orientation courses, writing
labs, technological support, etc.) are offered? What does
the campus look and feel like? How is the food? What kind
of calendar or timeframe are classes taught in? What is
a typical class size for an introductory course? And finally,
how are disability services organized?
is important to know that there is a great deal of variability
in how disability services are organized from college to
college. Generally, students must take the initiative to
receive services. College students have control over who
knows about their disability and how accommodations are
arranged; they will also have more responsibility for remembering
to make those arrangements.
common fact is that colleges will not ask you about your
disability. You may choose to include information about
your disability with your application. You can do this in
an essay, in letters of recommendation, or in a separate
letter included with your application. Different colleges
will have different ways of considering this information.
Check with the disability services office or the admissions
office about the procedures at the schools you are interested
ABOUT ADMISSION STANDARDS?
you identify several colleges that you are interested in
ask yourself "could I be successful at these colleges?"
Look at their admissions standards. Do you meet their minimum
standards (required courses, GPA, SAT, etc.)? If the answer
is no, there may be an alternative admissions process at
the institution that you can ask about.
you can picture yourself being successful at a certain college,
the next question is how typical your profile is for the
college? Are you below, right at, or above average for SAT
and GPA? If you are at or above average, you are in a good
candidate. If you are below average, you may want to consider
ways to strengthen your application. Consider your extra-curricular
activities, work experiences, hobbies, etc. Another question
to ask yourself is "Are there places where the impact
of your disability masks your true achievement or potential?"
DISABILITY AT ADMISSIONS
disclose your disability? One reason is that your disability
has influenced your approach to learning, your determination,
and many other things in your life. What you have learned
about yourself and how you have dealt with your disability
may say volumes about the kind of person and student you
are. You may want this information in letters of recommendation,
your essay, or as a second letter to the Admissions Committee.
second reason to disclose is based on the fact that standard
admission requirements are not an end in themselves. They
are measures or indicators of the skills, knowledge and
abilities that colleges believe students need to be successful.
It is possible that there are other ways to demonstrate
those skills than the typical measures of SAT, foreign language
If you are below a minimum standard (or somewhere below
average) asking the college to consider alternative measures
of the same skill may strengthen your profile. Requesting
that colleges consider additional or alternative information
can be a reasonable accommodation. The goal of this kind
of request is to have the college consider a substitute
measure or to weigh additional information into balance;
not to waive a standard.
you wanted to request this kind of consideration as an accommodation
to the admission's process you could enclose a letter with
your application that includes:
A statement that you have a disability;
B. Which admission requirement(s) you feel it affects with
C. What alternative or additional information you would
like to have considered; and
D. Documentation of your disability.
colleges will have a formal process for these kinds of requests
while others will not. You should check with the disability
services office about formal procedures. However, you may
submit this kind of request even if there is not formal
process in place. Once such a request is received, the college
will consider it.
next section is a list of typical admission measures and
the underlying skills, ability, and knowledge they generally
represent. This may or may not be how they are used by any
ADMISSIONS STANDARDS: What Do They Measure?
The ability to produce a final written product (directly,
utilizing adaptive technology, or utilizing alternative
media) that adheres to the forms and conventions of standard
b) The ability to comprehend material in print or alternative
media (tape, etc.)
c) A basic familiarity with the forms and styles of literature.
THREE UNITS OF MATHEMATICS (Geometry, Algebra I & Algebra
Computational mathematics skills covering basic arithmetic
through one variable algebra.
b) The application of linear reasoning to a constrained
set of facts.
c) Symbolic manipulation.
d) The ability to learn and apply an abstract system of
THREE UNITS OF SCIENCE (including a laboratory science)
A basic understanding of key elements in scientific method.
b) The ability to make predictions based on a theory.
c) The ability to make and test predictions based on collected
d) The ability to observe and describe the physical world.
TWO UNITS OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Familiarity and exposure to alternative cultural perspectives.
b) The ability to learn and apply an abstract system of
c) Symbolic Manipulation.
THREE UNITS OF SOCIAL STUDIES
A basic understanding of historical and social forces that
have influenced current culture.
b) A recognition of both the universal features and basic
difference among cultural and national units.
c) A basic understanding of the relationship between society
and the individual.
ONE UNIT OF FINE OR PRACTICAL ARTS
An appreciation for and an understanding of the process
of creating aesthetic or functional objects.
b) An understanding of the relationship between design,
function, and societal values.
TWO UNITS OF HEALTH & PHYSICAL EDUCATION
An understanding of health and wellness issues as they relate
to life style choices.
b) An appreciation for experiencing the physical nature
of oneself and the environment.
The level of accumulated knowledge and skills acquired through
b) A predictor of the level of success in the college curriculum.
c) An indicator of motivation and consistency of performance
across time and subject area.
RANK IN HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR CLASS
A normative measure of academic potential.
b) An indicator of relative academic competitiveness (motivation
and ability) over time.
A normative predictor of the ability to succeed in college.
b) A measure of academic potential or aptitude.
c) A measure of academic achievement.
order to evaluate requests for accommodation or auxiliary
aids a college will need documentation of the disability.
In general, documentation should consist of an evaluation
by an appropriate professional that is recent enough to
describe the current impact of the disability as it relates
to the accommodation request. Different colleges will define
what specific documentation is required differently. You
will want to check on the requirements at the colleges you
are interested in and discuss any necessary updating of
your documentation that may be necessary when you are developing
your Transition Plan. The generic guidelines below are likely
to be acceptable by most institutions.
appropriate to the disability the documentation should include
the following six elements:
A diagnostic statement identifying the disability, date
of the most current diagnostic evaluation, and the date
of the original diagnosis.
A description of the diagnostic tests, methods, and/or criteria,
A description of the current functional impact of the disability
which includes specific test results and the examiner's
Treatments, medications, or assistive devices/services currently
prescribed or in use.
A description of the expected progression or stability of
the impact of the disability over time, particularly the
next five years.
The credentials of the diagnosing professionals if not clear
from the letterhead or other forms.
the six elements needed for documentation, recommendations
that state why you benefit from accommodations, adaptive
devices, assistive services, compensatory strategies, and/or
collateral support services are valuable. They can be considered
within the context of the student's program.
the author: At the time of writing, L. Scott Lissner
was Director of Academic and Disability Support Services
at Longwood College in Virginia.