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If you have a learning disability, you may be a little anxious while searching for colleges. Higher education is a big step in everyone’s lives, but you may want to approach it differently. Here are some things you should keep in mind as you begin to apply.

Know Your Rights

Almost everyone is anxious about heading to college. After all, it is a big change. With a learning disability, it can be an even scarier transition. However, there are several laws in effect that prevent discrimination while attending college and guarantee you equal access to education.

Some of the laws that protect your rights include the Rehabilitation Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Assistive Technology Act, and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you require specific accommodations for testing or academics in general, disclose your disability to your school and request the accommodations. Keep in mind however that these requests will often require documentation.

Consider Colleges with Learning Assistance Resources

Many colleges and universities offer learning assistance resources for those with learning disabilities. These can include apps for your phone or tablet, websites, software, and more that help with everything from vocabulary to recording lectures to task tracking.

Some schools also go the extra mile. For example, Marist College in New York has a program dedicated to those with learning disabilities. They assist with academics but will also teach students how to advocate, both for themselves and their learning disability. Assistance includes a specialist guidance counselor, events, fundraisers, and more.

The University of Iowa also has a similar program called the Realizing Education and Career Hopes program, also known as REACH. Students in the program live in the same dorm, take part in internships, and learn independence. REACH helps students with everything involved in attending college, including campus life and career advice.

Look for Scholarships

There are several scholarships and awards available for students with learning disabilities. The Learning Disorders Resource Foundation has three awards for those who demonstrate financial need and have a learning disability such as ADD. The Incight Scholarship is another example, which awards $500 and can then be renewed every year.

These scholarships and awards will often ask you to submit proof and documentation of your learning disability and may include other qualifications and requirements, such as a specific location, written essay, or demonstrated financial need. Always double check the needed information before applying to ensure you qualify. If you need assistance in finding scholarships or awards, there are online databases and websites to assist you. You may also want to talk to your guidance counselor if you are having trouble finding them or would like suggestions on where to apply.

Heading to college is a big change, and applying for higher education can be a stressful time. Your high school guidance counselor is a great place to start for all students, regardless of the learning disability. They can assist you through the entire process, from the application to the scholarships to understanding your rights.

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