Does having a learning disability impact your chances of admission?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

Does having a learning disability impact your chances of admission?

Peter Silberman
Assistant Dean of Admissions University of Pennsylvania

Does having a learning disability impact your chances of admission?

Here is my video response to the question.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Learning Disabilities and Admission

There is no formula for how colleges view learning disabilities in formulating an admissions decision about a candidate. Sometimes, students are very out front in terms of disabilities, or their transcripts show a course such as Study Skills or Extra Help which could be indicative of any of a number of disabilities. Some students address their disabilities on the last section of the Common Application, but those answers are totally optional. Depending on the school and the admissions officer responsible for that student, overcoming a learning disability can be viewed as an asset and rewarded. I have worked with students who choose to not draw attention to their disabilities in any way and want to be judged like any other student. That is a matter of choice.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Impacting Admission Chances

Colleges do not deny admission based on a disability. Disclosing the disability can help if there are aspects of the academic record which need to be explained. If the student decides to disclose, he should use the opportunity to show the ability of self-advocacy and self-knowledge.

Nicholas Umphrey

LD and admissions

If you are a special education of 504 students, college admissions will focus on your test scores and grades just as they would anyone else. Having said that, accommodations at the college level are very scaled back compared to what you received in high school. The most common accommodation you can expect for LD is extended time on tests. It will be up to you to speak to professors and find tutors if you need additional support.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Chances of Admission

It depends. It should not impact the decision, but that is in a perfect world. After researching the school and deciding upon what type of support services you need, whether comprehensive or accommodations only, you can then decide whether or not to even disclose it. Of course, if you are applying for the college's comprehensive program the admission office will likely know it, BUT remember, if the college has a comprehensive program it won't matter to admissions that you have a learning difference. The college is set up to accept learning different students, so it won't affect you negatively. If you apply to colleges that are right for you, there should be no issue.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Does having a learning disability impact your chances of admission?

It shouldn’t, but in reality it is hard to know, and concerns about that fact have led to a division of opinion on whether or not students should admit on their application that they have a disability. I have always believed that a student should disclose the information, that the disability is not something to hide, but is instead an important, but not defining, part of who they are and a recognition of the fact provides context for their overall record. However, there are those who fear that, the law notwithstanding, schools see it as a problem, one they do not want to deal with or are staffed to deal with once the student gets on campus. Thus it may be a reason to deny a student admission. My experience has been to the contrary and I do think that it is in the applicant’s best interest to provide the admissions office with a full picture of who they are that includes full knowledge of the disability.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

Does having a learning disability impact your chances of admission?

It could, but it all depends on the college's requirements, how they evaluate and how they can accommodate one's specific learning disability.