I am a high school junior at a public high school in Florida. My GPA is around a 3.0-3.1. I’ve taken 7 honors classes and 2 AP courses so far. I got a 1070 on my first try on the SAT (just took the new ones yesterday). I’m in the top 50% of my class (of about 560) and have taken all the academic electives I can (psychology, law studies, etc). Though my GPA and test scores aren’t exactly spectacular, I have been involved in several extracurricular activities: volleyball team, weightlifting team, track & field team, poetry club, Girl Scouts and Interact (a volunteer group). I also volunteer at a local hospital. I’ve received various awards (e.g, Most Improved Player, Most Valuable Player) in volleyball. I also helped coach a 9-to-14-year-old volleyball team at the local recreation center. I am 2nd in the conference and 14th in the state for girl’s weightlifting. I’ve had three poems published. I was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder about a year ago, though I’ve had the symptoms since 8th grade (I didn’t tell my parents). With my grades and extracurricular activities, do I have a good shot at getting into a good public school in Florida? In my personal statement, should I write about my experiences with depression and bipolar disorder, or would that look like a poor attempt at appealing to the judges to make them pity me…and thus admit me?
First of all, while no college will admit you because it pities you, they may take into account that your depression and bipolar may have affected your grades. I suggest checking with your high school guidance counselor and the colleges in which you’re interested to see what is required in terms of documentation. High schools will make reasonable accommodations to students who have a condition that affects their ability to achieve their maximum potential.
Unfortunately, it may be too late for this to help you much in your high school classes. The College Board, which administers the SAT, will also give reasonable accommodations to students who have a disability that can be shown to affect their performance. These accommodations may include extra time on the SAT. Again, check with your high school guidance counselor and with the College Board to see if you might qualify for such accommodations when you take the exam again (which I would encourage you to do)–and which documentation you’ll need.
My daughter is moderately handicapped (physically). Are there any advantages to her being disabled in the college application process? (Specifically, are colleges, particularly state and/or federally funded schools, required to enroll a “quota” of handicapped/disabled, or is it only minority students that are given special advantages?) As “just another white girl,” my daughter may need to use her physical handicap to get into a good school, even though she’s brilliant (but that sadly isn’t always enough). Thanks for your time.
You may get some special consideration from some colleges. You’ll need to check with each to see which ones have specific admission policies for the disabled. Your daughter’s high school guidance office should be able to help. Good luck!
Greetings. I am a senior in high school, and I haven’t done very well in my previous years. This is not to say that I have done certifiably badly, but I’m currently working on bringing my cumulative GPA up to 3.0. I barely passed French I and flunked French II entirely. I didn’t do very well in math until last year (when I took Algebra II). Right now, I’m trying to better my transcript by taking some difficult classes (including AP Physics and Pre-Calculus, the latter being a college class), but it’s kind of late in the game to salvage it entirely. My problem is that I know my transcript doesn’t reflect my abilities. I’ve taken the SAT once so far and scored 700 in verbal and 590 in math (I’ll be retaking it this year). I’ve also been clinically diagnosed with ADD but refused to take Ritalin since the eighth grade. I’m completely disorganized, but I’m trying to live by a rigid schedule. I guess it’s the best way to take control of that particular problem. The thing is, my top college choices include UC Berkeley, Pomona College, Tulane University, and UC Davis. From a strictly transcript-based standpoint, I don’t stand a chance at getting admitted to any of these schools. Is there any way I can ask that my admission be evaluated in light of my ADD diagnosis? I can get several teachers to confirm that it has negatively affected my academic performance, but I just don’t know where to start. I would appreciate any assistance you could give me.
Well, your SAT scores demonstrate high ability, so colleges won’t wonder if you can do the work — they’ll only wonder if you will. I think SAT scores can potentially trump GPAs. You can try to get others to make excuses for you, but my strategy would be to say to schools (in a more formal way, of course): “I have this disability, I don’t want to be dependent on a drug, so I have chosen to try and manage my life in other ways. I’ve had some success. I’ve had some failures, but I keep trying, and I just need a chance.”
That said, it would not hurt to focus on other compelling things in your life — community service and so forth. Have you ever considered working with kids with ADD or telling your story in other ways? You need to distinguish yourself, and you still have time to do so. Will that get you into those colleges? Who knows, but I think you can apply with your head high. Don’t make the mistake, though, of not applying to some safety schools. College really isn’t your goal — it’s all the stuff that comes afterward, although that’s hard to remember from where you’re standing now.
I have a high-school daughter with cystic fibrosis. She is learning to care for herself and would like to explore a college away from home. Do many colleges have admission practices concerning individuals with disabilities? Are there schools with “non-smoking” dorms?
You will find many colleges and universities are extremely sensitive and responsive to students with disabilities. Many schools have specific admissions policies regarding disabilities, and I would encourage your daughter to seek the aid of a high school guidance counselor to discover which ones are best. Another suggestion might be to contact the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for advice.
As for non-smoking dorms, the answer is “yes.” Many colleges are now sending out questionnaires regarding such things as a smoking preference, gender living preference (many dorms are now co-ed), as well as what time the student goes to bed—the idea is to pair students with roommates with similar habits, which is a great idea. But of course, you have to investigate these policies on a college-by-college basis. You are to be commended for helping your daughter in this endeavor. Good luck.
My son suffers from ADD. He now is in his junior year of high school and has a combination of erratic grades but very high SAT scores. To improve his chances of being accepted by the college of his choice, he plans to begin the EPGY set of AP courses. Two questions: 1) How do prospective colleges view these courses? And 2) Would duplication of AP courses (i.e. EPGY plus local high school courses) be detrimental or advantageous?
If you’re asking how the Stanford EPGY AP courses are viewed among colleges, the fact is, the EPGY AP courses require the same College Board AP exam as the ones offered in high school. Acceptance of AP coursework by colleges is based on the results of the exam, not the participation in the class. EPGY says they have a 90% success rate of exam scores of 4 or 5, which is excellent.
Regarding your second question, there is no reason to take an AP course twice, since the exam is really what matters for college credit. Move on to different challenges. Good luck.
I am 15 and a sophomore. With a lot of work, I receive average grades in high school. I have some learning difficulties, although I am not in any special classes. My PSATs are horrible, and my test scores probably will not improve much over the years. I am a varsity soccer and lacrosse player. I have received three letters from college lacrosse coaches expressing interest. Do I have a better chance of getting into college because of my athletics? I do not want to get in over my head (academically) just because of athletics. Do you have any advice?
If you have some learning difficulties, your first priority is to learn to deal with them. Learning difficulties often have nothing to do with intelligence. With the proper help, you could find yourself doing quite well in school. But you should not face this problem alone. Seek the help of your parents, a teacher, counselor, or a trusted adult. You have a right to demand that your school help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
And PSATs are not the SATs. Thus, you still have an opportunity to do well. If you find that you’re just not a test taker, perhaps you should consider a college that does not require SATs for admission.
As for lacrosse and college, I would strongly encourage you to select a college that meets your academic and career objectives first, then consider its lacrosse program. Certainly, the schools which have expressed interest in you should be considered, but do consider the academic side of things first. I can tell from the way your question is posed that you are very bright and have a lot of potential. I hope you will write to us again and let us know how it is going. You can reach us through the Guru question page.
Do you know of colleges or universities that recruit smart learning-disabled students?
Yes–most all of them! Schools appreciate knowing and recruiting students with learning disabilities. Admissions officers do like to know information that may help them assess a student’s level of intelligence, work ethic, determination and previous ability to overcome challenges. Colleges and universities welcome applications from learning-disabled students.
If you are looking for schools where the student bodies are specifically made up of students with particular learning challenges, a quick search on the Internet reveals colleges such as Landmark College, Beacon College, Curry College, and other schools with top-ranked programs for students with learning disabilities. Happy hunting.
I am in high school. I am a junior. My grades have not been very good, and I have had to repeat a couple of semesters. I think I have dyslexia, but I don’t know who to talk to. I have just been told I have ADD, and I am taking medicine. I want to go to college. My parents were hoping my grades would help me get a scholarship since they can’t really afford to send me to college. Can I still go? I am good at art and interested in being a physical trainer. I am good at science when testing or really focused, although my past grades don’t always show this. Thank you for all of your help.
You can definitely still go to college. It sounds like you’ve already chosen some areas you’re skilled in, so I encourage you to pursue those further! The best thing I would have you do as a way of giving advice is to suggest you read back through all the Guru questions we’ve previously answered in the section “Learning Disabled.” That will give you a start on how to go through the college process with knowledge of your ADD.
Have you spoken to your high school counselor about your concerns regarding potential dyslexia? He or she will be able to find a specialist in town to help test you to see if you indeed have dyslexia…and your counselor may have an abridged form of the test you can take right in school. Otherwise, do you have an adult that you feel comfortable talking to? (If not a parent, perhaps one of your friends’ parents, etc?) I do encourage you to find a way to take a dyslexia test if you can. It should not affect your admission chances to a college — in fact, admissions officers typically appreciate having more information about a person’s learning needs when they are making admissions decisions.
I know this just gives you a start. But at any rate, I encourage you to remember that colleges are usually very helpful to students that have particular learning needs. I would certainly not rule college out at all. In fact, there may also be scholarships specifically awarded to people with ADD or dyslexia. Try looking at Fastweb.com to see if you can be matched with some of this scholarship money.
My daughter was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome at the age of seven. She was not judged in school because my husband and I taught our children at home until their middle school years. Now she is a senior and has still never been officially “labeled” for school purposes. When she struggled to focus in class and keep her grades high, the positive results were from her own hard work and determination, not because she was given special treatment. Would it be advantageous when applying to colleges to include documentation from her doctor stating that she is physically challenged, or should her stats speak for themselves?
To be frank, it really depends on your personal philosophy. It sounds to me like you decided in the past not to have your daughter overtly “labeled,” and that reflects a value you’ve held as far as personal motivation and overcoming difficulties. It also sounds to me like she has held her own, and if you think that she has a respectable chance of being accepted to some solid public or private universities without having to include the documentation, then that’s great. Another thing you could do is contact a few admissions counselors of some of the schools she is interested in and explain the general situation to them. They might be able to give you helpful advice on any specific advantages for that particular school.
Now, when it comes to applying for financial aid, you probably do want to look up possible scholarship opportunities awarded to students who have Tourette’s or other “disabilities.” That could be a wonderful advantage for you. Here’s a link to get you started.
Again, as far as showing documentation to colleges, it really depends on what you and your daughter decide is best for her. Sometimes students with more specialized needs have access to note-takers and other services on a college campus. If your daughter wants to have resources like that, that’s fine. If not, that’s fine too. Another thing to consider if you decide not to use official documentation now is that if she begins to really struggle with a course or set of courses in the future, that could be the time to approach a professor and explain more of the situation. I wish you and your family well as you move forward in your decision-making.
For additional information about disclosing disabilities to colleges, please read this helpful article from The New York Times.
My daughter has a freshman GPA of 2.5, and a sophomore GPA of 2.7. She started taking medicine for ADD in the middle of her junior year (fall semester). She had a GPA of 3.3 that semester and 3.8 for her second junior semester. She got an A in a college class during the summer, and she now has 4.0 for her senior year first semester. I’ve heard that mentioning ADD is seen as an excuse. Should she write about it on her essay? Will colleges take it into account?
Generally, giving admissions officers more information to help them “fill in the gaps” on an application is helpful, not harmful. You’re right–your daughter should not talk about ADD in a tone that makes it seem like a blanket excuse, but she could certainly discuss having ADD with sincerity and aplomb. She may also choose to write about it in her essay if she would like. But her essay topic should be up to her. I don’t think it will make a big difference whether she mentions it in her essay or elsewhere (e.g. in an “extenuating circumstances” section). Again, that decision is up to her.
You may also want to encourage your daughter to speak to her school adviser about what steps to take in this situation. Advisers frequently have great resources about how to handle learning disabilities in conjunction with college admissions.
It sounds like the measures you have found have made a difference already. That’s a huge step forward. College admissions officers will see, as I can see from her progressively higher GPA, that your daughter has already been working to overcome her particular challenges. And I am guessing she will most likely continue to do so. My congratulations to her.
My son is a junior in high school. Despite being diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, he has always been an outstanding student with the help of counseling and medication. He takes Honors and AP courses and presently has a GPA of 4.4. He took his first ACT test (which he found to be difficult) and will take his first SAT in March. His ACT scores are forthcoming. He is a member of the NHS and has volunteered to help the elderly and other volunteer activities as well. My son has high aspirations of going to MIT to study meteorology. Is this a possibility if his ACT and SAT scores are just average compared to his high GPA? Also, would it be wise to write a college essay on how he has worked hard to overcome his struggles with ADHD to excel in school, or would colleges view his disability as a warning sign that he might not be up to the demands of an elite college like MIT? What are your thoughts? Thank you.
Many people with learning disabilities actually excel in college, particularly in specialized fields. I wouldn’t rule out MIT for your son yet. It would be fine for him to write an essay about overcoming the particular challenges of ADHD. Admissions officers typically appreciate knowing more about applicants’ circumstances. The fact that your son has a 4.4 GPA and has worked so hard is something that they should know. If your son doesn’t perform especially well on the ACT and/or SAT, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t take them a second time. Perhaps you and your son already know his best studying and test prep methods.
By the way, your son sounds like a strong candidate for the Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Scholarship Award, which awards $10,000 to two graduating high school seniors. You should keep an eye on that for next year.
I am a non-traditional college student who is returning to school. Recently, I’ve noticed symptoms which I believe can be connected to learning disabilities. I’ve contacted my university for help. They’ve told me I need to have testing done, and have made several recommendations of places in our community to go. Unfortunately for me, in order for my insurance to cover testing, it has to be recommended by a psychiatrist. The issue I am having is getting in to meet with someone. Everywhere I call, I am told that I cannot be seen until mid-May or June. Is this normal? Is there anything I can do to speed up the process? While this is good long-term because I will know what’s wrong with me, it serves as no help for the current semester in which I am enrolled.
Thanks for your question. Yes, it’s typical that psychiatrists are bears to get appointments with. Mid-May-to-June sounds about right, though I’d keep checking. You could ask to be put on a wait-list for each person you call, if someone else cancels, you’d have a chance to get in sooner.
In the meantime, have you thought about checking with your school’s psychology or counseling services? There are trained professionals right on campus, and they could at least give you some resources to help with particular symptoms or lack of focus. Even sitting down and processing with someone (whether it’s one of these people, or a peer you trust, or one of your professors) could help you discern some helpful things about your struggles.
Now, about your current semester. If you believe you might have a learning disability, I see no reason why not trying to put into practice some of the study skills and habits that students with LD are advised to use. There might be a disability resource center right on your campus – if so, you can go in there and pick up a couple of pamphlets that have study and coping tips. Or, utilize the tutoring and writing center on campus. Those centers exist for the purpose of helping students one on one, learning disabilities or not. If you’re studying long-distance, try making a couple of calls to those places on campus for the same purpose.
If you feel courageous enough, I’d suggest you also talk to your professor(s) about what you think might be happening. I’m guessing they’ll be sympathetic and want to help you succeed in their classes. It’s worth a shot. Thank you again for writing to me.
Hello, I am currently a sophomore. Over the past two years, I have been noticing that it has become increasingly hard for me to concentrate on anything that I’m doing and I am almost positive that I have ADD. My mom doesn’t want me to be tested, though because she thinks that really good universities consider ADD a handicap and it negatively impacts the chances of getting in. Do you know if is this true? I am becoming very stressed out due to my lack of concentration and would like to be tested, but I would also like to be a veterinarian so I would obviously need the best chances possible to get into veterinary school. Thanks.
You may or may not have ADD, and I think it’s probably more important that you’re able to concentrate on your studies more than I would care about how universities perceive it. So you might still decide you’d like to be tested, but that’s really up to you. If you are tested and diagnosed, that may affect what services you desire at a college.
But also keep in mind that even if you’re tested for ADD and are diagnosed, you are not required to disclose it on your college applications. Choosing whether to disclose a possible learning disability is really going to be up to you in the end. If you want to give an explanation for an unusual drop in grades, etc, it may be helpful. One disability services officer at Brown University notes that deciding whether to disclose a learning disability should be a “careful, thoughtful process.”
However, I’m going to throw in another random but possible factor: Do you spend a lot of time 1) texting 2) using social media 3) surfing the Internet 4) using a smartphone? If so, you may be becoming more and more “distractible” simply through your use of these technological devices. More and more studies are showing that these things are beginning to actually change our brains and make them more susceptible to lots of different stimuli. It might be something to consider. If you find yourself using these things quite a bit throughout the day (and honestly, many people do), you might want to come up with a plan to take a break from technology for a period of time, have your parent(s) set some boundaries for you, and/or find places you can study where you won’t be distracted by any handheld devices or blinking screens.
If you are a heavy technology user, you and your mom might decide that you want to try some of these things before getting tested for ADD. But again, that’s something that you should work out together. In the end, one of the keys to your success is probably whether you will be able to ask the right questions to get the support you need to be a successful student whether it’s now or in the future. Good luck.
Hi Guru: My daughter has been accepted to the school of her choice, and now I am trying to figure out how to pay for it. She has Asperger’s Syndrome but has done well in school despite it. She has trouble staying on task, but the work she does is amazing when she applies herself. I am not sure if her admissions officer knows about her Asperger’s. If he doesn’t, would it hurt or help her chances for grants? Thank you!
Congratulations to you and your daughter on her acceptance! Firstly, a school cannot discriminate against a student because of a disability, so informing the admissions office of her syndrome will not hurt her chances of receiving grants and scholarships. The school may have scholarships for disabilities like your daughters’. This article from U.S. News & World Report outlines some of the reasons why a learning disability or similar feature may actually be a positive thing for a college student. Schools look for ways to diversify their student bodies, and your daughter will no doubt provide unique value to her class. Don’t hesitate to discuss the issue with the admissions office and to inquire about the availability of grants. Congrats!
Our only child is diagnosed with moderate autism and dyslexia. He is good at math but very poor in language-based subjects like English language arts and social studies. He is in a special education school that specializes in children with language-based disabilities. He plans to make a career in teaching music but is probably not at the level to qualify in an audition, so he will need to go through the regular admission route. His target is any of the schools in the University of Massachusetts System. He doesn’t have a great GPA, but, to his credit, he has tremendously improved, and it is reflected in his state exams. Although he was unable to pass any of the state exams until eighth grade, from then on, he passed all of the exams in his first attempt, though they’re not great scores. He will take ACT — the SAT is too tricky for him — with accommodations, and based on practice tests, it looks like he can score somewhere between 20 and 22. From what I understand, UMass usually looks for something around 26 for admission, but with his documented disability, his record of overcoming much of it, his formal musical training but no Advanced Placement or foreign language, do you think he has any hope to get admitted? Also, do colleges normally allow students to take less than a full load of courses in their first year, with the understanding he might take five years to graduate?
Colleges and universities, including UMass, welcome applications from students with learning disabilities. In fact, admissions officers encourage applicants who have disabilities to identify themselves during the admissions process. If your son is a Massachusetts resident, he can request his admission application to be evaluated without standardized test scores if he provides documentation of disability along with his application.
However, these applicants must complete all required academic courses and earn a minimum average GPA of 3.0 or present other evidence of the potential for academic success. Although your son doesn’t have the foreign language courses required, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education does allow applicants with learning or other disabilities to substitute two academic electives based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for the two required foreign language courses if he has submitted to the high school the results of an evaluation, completed within the past three years, that indicates a specific diagnosis of a learning disability that affects the ability to learn a foreign language. Of course, you should check with your own advisor who is familiar with Massachusetts law to make sure your son qualifies.
If he meets these requirements and is accepted, in addition to services available to all students, most colleges also offer services to students with disabilities, including nonstandard test administration; use of audio recorders, note-takers, interpreters or other learning assistance in class; and permission to be enrolled in less than 12 credits each semester. At UMass, a student with disabilities who have reduced course loads are still registered as full time, and if necessary, student disability services can provide an appropriate explanatory notation.
Colleges are usually helpful to students who have particular learning needs. For a list of schools that might be a good fit, check out a learning disability-specific college guide, such as Peterson’s Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or ADHD. Good luck!