The college search process can be complicated and sometimes overwhelming for anyone. For students with dyslexia or another language-based learning difference, navigating this journey often includes additional considerations and challenges. Most high schools offer some level of assistance in the college search process through guidance counseling, online tools, and/or workshops. The aggregated resources listed on this page are meant to supplement, not take the place of, what is offered at your high school.
We welcome feedback and encourage you to share additional resources with us that would help other families with students who have a language-based learning difference.
Navigating the College Search Process for Students with Dyslexia and Language-Based Learning Differences
Saturday, March 6, 2021
Recommended for parents of students in grades 9-11
The college search process can be complicated and overwhelming for anyone. For students with dyslexia or another language-based learning difference (LBLD), this journey often includes additional considerations and challenges.
Hosted by the HRS Learning Center, this expert-led seminar is tailored specifically to parents/guardians of students with dyslexia or another LBLD. Topics include:
· Tips to organizing your college search
· What’s different about the college search process for LBLD students
· Support services to consider for a college program
· How to access on-campus support services
· Key tips that are easily overlooked in the process
Director of College Counseling
Delaware Valley Friends School (Paoli, PA)
(A school serving students in grades 1-12 who learn differently)
· Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC)
· Active member of NACAC, PACAC, and ACCIS
· M.Ed. in School Counseling from Loyola University Maryland
Sara Sanders Gardner
Program Director / Adjunct Faculty
· Designer and program director of Bellevue College’s nationally recognized Neurodiversity Navigators program (NdN)
· Lead curriculum designer and adjunct faculty for NdN career preparation cohort series
· Instructor for Orientation and College and Career Navigation classes
Manager, Office of Accessibility & Accommodation
Pacific Lutheran University
· Coordinator for Student Rights & Responsibilities
· MBA from Pacific Lutheran University
Director / Disability Resources for Students
University of Washington
· Former Director of UW Academic Support Programs
· MA in Education Psychology/Higher Education Counseling from Northern Arizona University
Listed resources include guides and support services. These resources are not endorsed by the HRS Learning Center, nor have we received any form of compensation for these listings.
504U.org is a college admissions counseling practice that specializes in working with students who have learning differences like dyslexia and ADHD. Online services available.
Best Test Optional Colleges in Washington ranking filters the 2020 Best Colleges ranking to only include colleges that don't require SAT or ACT scores for admission.
BTA Education offers a range of education services for students and families, including college consulting, education advocacy, and coaching. President and Founder Janet Thibeau also serves on the board of the International Dyslexia Association.
Campus Tours provides interactive video tours and campus maps of colleges across the U.S.
College Excel is a comprehensive, residential college support program that provides traditional and non-traditional learners (18+) with the academic and personal support needed to be successful in college and beyond.
College Supports for Learning Differences provides a comprehensive guide to college support services for students with LD, AD/HD, and Autism Spectrum disorders -- including detailed descriptions of services, personnel providing the services, contact persons at each institution, and costs to the student. Profiles of 500 college and post-secondary programs.
College Web LD is a comprehensive online resource for information about disability support services at over 500 U.S. colleges and universities. It includes a College Success Profile tool for users to follow in the college planning process for students who learn differently. Includes free and paid services.
College Wise is the nation’s largest college admissions counseling organization, with over 60 admissions experts and 40 testing and curriculum tutors. They also have a local (Bellevue) office: 425-451-4355
Dyslexic Advantage’s “Best and Worst Colleges for Dyslexia." This is an anecdotal aggregation of colleges mentioned by visitors to the Dyslexic Advantage website.
FairTest.org provides the latest national updates about which colleges require the SAT and/or ACT.
Going-to-College.org offers information about living college life with a disability. The site provides video clips, activities and additional resources that can help high school students get a head start in planning for college.
Guide for Students with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia includes problems faced by students, tips, support options offered by colleges, a list of "best" colleges, available scholarships, and other resources.
International Dyslexia Association (IDA) offers two excellent fact sheets: Transitioning from High School to College Help for Students with Learning Disabilities and Applying for Accommodations on College Entrance Tests.
J2Guides.com offers information on a potential gap year for students with learning differences.
LDAdvisory.com, founded by Elizabeth Hamblet, has a mission to help students with disabilities successfully transition to college. Many linked resources, freely accessible videos and articles, as well as personal consultation.
LD Virtual Tutoring provides learning support services designed to students who learn differently become more confident and successful. LD Virtual Tutoring is offered exclusively online, and is designed for high school or college students located anywhere in the world.
National Center for College Students with Disabilities Clearinghouse aggregates many resources regarding disabilities and higher education.
Northwest College Support helps to bridge the transitional experience for students by helping them learn the strategic skills necessary to be successful in a college or vocational skills environment.
RiSE Scholarship Foundation is a non-profit college resource for high school students who learn differently.
Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges provides direct links to all 34 programs in the state, including contacts for admissions, academic advising, and student services.
We recommend that you reference the most current edition of the books listed. These resources are not endorsed by the HRS Learning Center, nor have we received any form of compensation for these listings.
The College Bound Organizer by Anna Costaras and Gail Liss
College for Students with Learning Disabilities: A School Counselor’s Guide to Fostering Success by Mati Sicherer
Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges by Loren Pope
Fiske Guide to Colleges by Edward Fiske
From High School to College: Steps to Success for Students with Disabilities by Elizabeth Hamblet
The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences by The Princeton Review
Supporting College and University Students with Invisible Disabilities by Christy Oslund
Transitioning to College: A Guide for Students with Disabilities (pamphlet) by Elizabeth Hamblet
DO-IT (UW) College Funding for Students with Disabilities gives a general overview of college funding opportunities (scroll down for disability-related scholarships).
Education Degree offers an aggregation of information and links to many scholarships for students with learning disabilities.
INCIGHT has awarded more than 850 scholarships to students with disabilities pursuing higher education -- including community colleges, universities, vocational schools, and graduate programs.
Lime Network: The BMO Capital Markets Lime Connect Equity Through Education Scholarship provide scholarships for students with visible and non-visable disabilities -- particularly those with a career interest in financial markets.
Note: This section reflects the personal experiences and opinions of our community and is meant to provide anecdotal information. Please send your parent tips our way!
Per Laura (who is happy to connect with you via HRS):
I like the resources on this website and thought the section called "Additional Information" was the MOST important information. My HRS alumni son is in college now, so I’m offering additional thoughts based on the search process that we went through (pre-Covid). Hope this is helpful:
- Timing is everything and getting testing/accommodations for SATs and other tests is important and takes planning.
- Start early! We started early to get our son excited about college AND to understand how important grades and test scores can be. We did all our tours FALL of Junior year and only attended the full day tours. The full day tours (versus quick tours) allowed for better understanding of the college, meeting more people, and the opportunity to attend a class or department session.Starting early also allowed our son to determine what kind of school he wanted (e.g., big, little, rural, urban). We went to a mix of schools so he could “try them on”.
- Spread out the work.The process involves planning, tours, testing, and applications. Do not try to put everything into September and October of Senior year. For example, tour some schools during Junior year, take SATs spring Junior year (then study more and retake if needed during Senior year), start applications summer before Senior year, and leave last minute tours to fall of Senior year.
- Be careful of “exclusive” schools. Look for schools that really want kids to attend and succeed, aren’t restrictive about majors, offer lots of support, and understand and even expect that kids will struggle with the social and academic transition to college. That tolerance for “failure” is terrific and allows kids to feel they can slow down or stumble and it is totally normal.
- Try to forget about cost until after getting accepted. The schools send grant opportunities once you are accepted and the bar did not seem high. Our son got an $8K a year grant with no special application needed. All but the in-state public colleges offered something. Apply to a range of private and public schools so you have options.
Additional information that might be useful:
- The four types of support available at the college level include: basic, coordinated, structured, and immersive. Ask college admissions staff about the level of support that is offered at their school.
- 504 plans expire after 3 years. Ensure that your student’s plan is up-to-date if they need access to 504 accommodations for the SAT or ACT.
- When students reach the age of 18, parents can no longer connect with college administrators for advocacy purposes (in most instances).
- Approximately 94% of students with learning challenges receive some form of accommodations in high school, yet only 17% percent continue receiving accommodations in college (National Center for Disabilities, 2014). Consider and seek college support options as needed.