Accommodations & College Acceptance


Will having accommodations hurt my child’s chances of getting into a good college?    D.A. Sanders, Raleigh, NC

Ask the Experts

Lisa Rappaport, Ph.D

Lisa Rappaport is a neuropsychologist, specializing in the treatment of children with LD, ADHD, and developmental disorders. She is also an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Most colleges are knowledgeable about learning differences and the accommodations required by certain students. When a child applies to college and has taken the SAT with extended time or another accommodation, the school will most likely want to see a long history of a documented learning difference. If a student can show that he was diagnosed at a young age, and with the help of certain accommodations was able to achieve academic success, the accommodations should not hurt his chances for admission.

If there is no history and the disability seemed to show up a year or two prior to taking college entrance exams, the college might look more skeptically at the applicant. It’s sad but true that some children without learning challenges have been able to “game the system” by requesting accommodations on the SAT or ACT with the idea that they will score higher than they would without the accommodation. Although the organizations that administer the entrance exams make it difficult for those without a history of documented need to receive accommodations, it occasionally happens, possibly raising a red flag in the admissions office.

Generally, colleges not only understand that a student might need an accommodation in high school or on standardized tests; they often offer students with learning differences accommodations at college. Many good universities have learning centers where students can go for extra help, apply for accommodations, or even ask for a waiver from certain requirements. Therefore, the bottom line is, it is fine to let a college know that a student has accommodations or requires them, but it is important to document your child’s disability and past accommodations.

To avoid needed accommodations because you fear it might impact your child’s chances of getting into a particular institution could actually have the effect you’re trying to avoid. The purpose of accommodations is to level the playing field for students with learning disabilities, allowing a child to compete with his peers. 

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