Figuring out which colleges you’re interested in is arguably the most difficult part of the college application process. There’s so much information to sift through - how could brief visits and informational brochures really tell you about where you’ll be most successful?
This process is made even harder for students with learning disabilities. You want to make sure that there are programs in place to help you be the best you can be no matter where you go to college. If want to apply to colleges for students with learning disabilities that support students like you, this list should be a great place to start your college search. I'll start off by talking about what these speciality programs have to offer before getting to the actual rankings - then, I'll talk about next steps if you decide a learning disability program is right for you.
What Makes a College Good for Students with Learning Disabilities?
All colleges in the US are required to have a disabilities office, which is meant to help accommodate students with different needs. While disability offices can be helpful when it comes to logistical concerns, some students need more of a supportive structure in place in order for them to feel comfortable.
All of the schools listed below go above and beyond what's required of them when it comes to supporting students with learning disabilities. They offer an array of supportive programs, often operated by learning specialists who are trained in working with students who have different needs. Examples of supportive services, programs, and procedures include:
- Weekly meetings with a counselor
- Reduced course load
- Extra tutoring support
- Special curriculums
- On-campus learning specialists
- Individual meetings with educators
- Transitional summer programs
- Specialty workshops
The schools below offer different combinations of the above support services, and in different levels of structure. Not all of the schools listed will be appropriate for all students with learning disabilities - some offer very high levels of structure and support, whereas others offer regular check-ins to make sure you're on track. It may be helpful to think about how much support is ideal for you before you begin your official college search.
What These Rankings Mean
Because many of the schools on this list are very different from each other (even though they all offer specialized programs), there aren’t reliable rankings lists available. Each student will have to consider her own unique needs when thinking about which specialized programs would be best for her.
To compile this list of schools, I researched some of the best learning disability programs according to both aggregated lists and opinions from the learning disability community. Instead of assigning an arbitrary rank, I organized the schools by type, which should be more useful. Here, you can learn about programs at schools solely for students for learning disabilities. Or, if you want to be a part of a program that’s embedded within a school, you can compare programs at smaller communities to some larger, well-known ones.
It's important to note that most of these programs come with an additional fee on top of tuition if they're embedded within a college or university. If information about the program cost was available, I included it in the program description.
Like Goldilocks, you should focus on the right fit for you. Unlike Goldilocks, you won't end up chased from a house by angry bears.
Read on to learn about programs offered at larger colleges and smaller colleges - at the end, I'll mention some schools notable for catering only to students with learning disabilities.
The following programs are generally embedded in medium- to large-size colleges. If you want more of a typical "college" experience, but still want the additional support and attention that comes with a specialized program, these may be good options for you. Keep in mind that you'll likely to have to apply to both the college and the learning disability program.
American University (Learning Services Program)
The Learning Services Program (LSP) offers quite a few support systems for qualifying students. Enrollees have weekly individual meetings with a program coordinator or program counselor; they also consult with a program coordinator during the summer to discuss registration and course selection. Other benefits include:
- Enrollment in a reserved section of the freshman writing class
- Weekly meetings with a writing tutor for the freshman writing class
- Individualized course advising
- Upperclass student mentor
DePaul University (PLuS Program)
DePaul University offers a year-round, comprehensive program meant specifically to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. There isn't a lot of publically available information about the specific services that the PLuS Program offers, but you can read more about PLuS and DePaul admissions.
Northeastern University (Learning Disabilities Program)
Northeastern University is relatively large, and offers many on-campus resources to all of its undergraduate students. If you're a part of this program, you meet twice a week with an LDP specialist to work on academic and general life skills. This specialist also directs you to other resources available on campus, like subject-specific tutoring.
Rochester Institute of Technology (EMPOWER Program through the Academic Support Center)
RIT's Academic Support Center offers a variety of services, including academic coaching, math & physics support, reading support, and supplemental instruction, at no fee to RIT students. The EMPOWER program offers an extra level of support: students have weekly meetings with an EMPOWER mentor to discuss progress and come up with detailed academic plans.
University of Arizona - Tuscon (SALT Program)
The SALT program offers pretty comprehensive support, and seems ideal for students who want that "big school" experience. Enrollees have weekly meetings with a strategic learning specialist, but they also have access to many other services, including:
- Content-specific tutoring
- Educational tech support
- Life skills & academic strategies workshops
- Psychological services
- Life and AD/HD coaching - separate from SALT fee (additional $1,350 for 3 months)
Lower division students pay $2,800 per semester, which includes tutoring. Upper division students pay $1,200 per semester, with tutoring costing an additional $21/hr. Read about SALT and University of Arizona admissions.
University of Connecticut (Beyond Access Program)
The University of Connecticut offers a few different options for students with learning disabilities. The major support program is called the BAP - students meet with weekly with a trained Strategy Instructor (SI) to develop important skills. The SI focuses on several skill sets, including:
- Time management & organization
- Study skills
- Stress management
- Memory and concentration
- Social skills
- Career prep
- Health & wellness
- Reading & writing strategies
There are two different program levels: the BAP fee is $1,800 per semester for one SI meeting a week, or $3,600 per semester for three SI meetings a week. Check out the BAP site for more info.
The University of Connecticut also offers something called UCPREP, which is a summer program for rising freshmen with disabilities. It focuses on academic and personal skill building to ease the transition to college. Read more about UCPREPand check out UC's admissions requirements
University of Denver (Learning Effectiveness Program)
The University of Denver's LEP offers students academic counseling, subject-specific tutoring, time & organizational management help, and special student events.
University of Iowa (REACH Program)
The REACH program is a good option for students who need extra support, or who aren’t ready to jump in to the college experience just yet. It’s not an ancillary program for students who are part of the college - it’s an education program in its own right, specialized for students with intellectual, cognitive, or learning disabilities. REACH is a 2-year transition certificate program, providing students with a "big 10" experience while making sure they're supported through the educational process.
Services offered by the REACH program include:
- Small group instruction
- Real world opportunities for hands-on learning
- Special events and support staff
- Opportunities to participate in UI courses with the assistance of REACH staff
Not everyone is gets excited at the prospect of a big college campus. If you prefer a more intimate environment, these schools might be good fits for you.
Classes at small colleges can be really stimulating, intimate experiences (as long as you don't forget to do the reading).
Augsburg College (CLASS)
CLASS stands for the Center of Learning and Accessible Student Services. This center is staffed with disability specialists who are trained to provide the following services to students who may need them:
- Individual support
- Instruction of learning strategies and compensatory techniques
- Help with time management and organizational skills
- Academic advising
- Housing assistance
Curry College (Program for Advanced Learning)
Curry College's PAL program offers a specialized curriculum for students with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. This curriculum mainly focuses on learning strategies and the learning process in general. Students in the program also receive referrals to specialized advisors and technical support.
Learn more about Curry's regular admissions requirements.
Fairleigh Dickinson University (Regional Center for Learning Disabilities)
Through this center, students can schedule weekly meetings with learning specialists, counseling, technological support, and priority registration.
Lesley University (Threshold Program)
Similar to the REACH, Threshold is a specialty certificate program meant for those who would struggle in a traditional college environment, even with some structured support. Students can choose to study Business Services and/or Early Childhood Development. After completing the program, students have the opportunity to participate in post-grad programs through Lesley University.
Lynn University (Institute for Achievement and Learning)
Students who are part of this institute have access to a variety of specialty services, including:
- Academic coaching
- Assistive technology
- Diagnostic assessments
- Alternative testing environments
Marist College (Learning Disabilities Support Program)
Students enrolled in this program are assigned to work one-on-one with a learning specialist. In meetings with these specialists, students focus on:
- Writing skills
- Note-taking skills
- Organization skills
- Test-taking strategies
- Time management
Mercyhurst College (Learning Differences Program)
There are two parts to the LDP: a special summer program to ease into the college transition, an an individualized action plan during the semester. This action plan includes:
- Weekly meetings with an academic counselor
- Academic advising
- Subject-specific tutoring
- Assigned note-takers
- Priority class registration
Mitchell College (Bentsen Learning Center)
Through the Bentsen Learning Center, students have access to an academic support program meant specifically for students with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. There are 4 levels of support, so the program can be tailored to each student's individual needs. The center offers the following services:
- Learning strategy instruction
- Career readiness skill building
- Content strategy workshops
- Designated student study areas
- Referrals to additional campus resources
Schools Dedicated to Students with Learning Disabilities
There are a few schools that only accept students with learning disabilities. They tend to be smaller colleges that tend to offer customizable levels of support and structure. If you are interested in schools that cater exclusively to students with language-based learning disabilities, you should definitely check out the following colleges.
These schools are experienced in helping students with learning disabilities balance their academic, work, and personal lives.
Beacon College offers Associate and Bachelor degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. Beacon's overall graduation rate is 76%, which surpasses the national average graduation rate for students with learning disabilities. The college's support services include a Center for Student Success (with trained learning specialists and tutors), a math lab, and a writing center.
All of Landmark College is dedicated to helping students who learn differently (e.g. students with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, or dyslexia). Support services that the college offer include:
- Academic advising and coaching
- Centers for academic support
- Specialty summer programs, to ease the transition into college
What Should You Do if You're Interested in One of These Programs?
Think you'd benefit from a supportive program meant for students with learning disabilities? The following tips will help you successfully navigate admissions and beyond.
Get More Information
Just like any college applicant, you should get as much information about these programs as possible to get a better idea of fit and compatibility. Visit campuses, talk to current students, and consider if program offerings would give you the appropriate level of support.
Make Note of Additional Applications
Many of these schools require you to submit an application to the learning disabilities program in addition to the regular college application. You may also have to submit further documentation, including diagnostic tests, psychological evaluations, or letters from educators. Give yourself extra time to complete these applications.
Account for Extra Expenses in Your College Budget
You can still apply (and be eligible for) financial aid and scholarships, but enrolling in some of these programs could potentially add thousands of dollars to your costs each year.
If you're still thinking through your college budget (and the extra costs that come with learning disability programs), get informed with our guide to college expenses.
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Francesca graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and scored in the 99th percentile on the SATs. She's worked with many students on SAT prep and college counseling, and loves helping students capitalize on their strengths.