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College Admissions Advice for Students with Dyslexia

Mixed letter blocks with a handful that spell out Dyslexia running through the middle.

Applying to college tests all students’ writing, reading, and attention. However, for students living with dyslexia, the college application process can seem especially challenging and even overwhelming, given how many linguistic demands it makes of them.

Nevertheless, it is entirely possible to be a successful college applicant if you are a student with dyslexia! Below, we’ve compiled some of our best advice to make the college application and admissions process as manageable and stress-free as possible for these students.

Make a Plan

If you have dyslexia, you know it can sometimes take you longer to do things than it takes other students. For that reason, it’s important to make a clear and comprehensive plan for the college admissions cycle and to give yourself enough time to complete all the tasks on it. Knowing when each element has to be done will ensure that you have enough time to prepare and develop all your materials.

As you put together this plan, make sure to get advice from parents, teachers, your guidance counselor, and others who are knowledgeable about the admissions process and can help you understand when various tasks need to be completed and how much time they’ll require. Having a comprehensive plan will ensure that the entire process will be smooth and successful.

Get Accommodations for Standardized Tests

Depending on the colleges to which you plan to apply, you may need to take one or more standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT. Students with dyslexia often find these tests to be a particularly onerous element of the application process. Fortunately, the makers of these tests realize that and thus offer special accommodations for students with dyslexia, including extra time, larger-print testing materials, and someone to read the test aloud to you.

Getting accommodations for standardized tests is not as easy as showing up and asking for them, however. You’ll need to provide documentation of your dyslexia from your school or neuropsychologist in advance, as well as fill out a brief application. In general, your accommodations must be approved before you can even sign up for a test date, so don’t wait!

Start Your Essays Early

If you’re a high school student with dyslexia, you already know that it can take you longer to develop, draft, revise, and complete written assignments. Applying to college involves a variety of skills and processes, but the most time-consuming feature for any applicant is the writing of the applications themselves, often including a long list of essays.

Staying on top of these essays, including knowing how much you need to write and when the drafts need to be finished and revising them to make sure the writing is as effective as possible, will likely be the greatest challenge students with dyslexia face in the college admissions process. As such, starting the work early will ease the associated stress and enable you to succeed.

Get Help with Your Writing

Making a plan to get all the writing and revising done on your applications is essential, but students with dyslexia should also consider getting additional help from an experienced and knowledgeable advisor. Whether that’s a parent, teacher, guidance counselor, or other adult, someone to guide you in the process can help to alleviate your unique challenges.

College essays are likely to be unlike anything most high school students have written before, and those with dyslexia may find the process of self-reflection through writing to be particularly challenging. Having someone on your team to read through your materials, make concrete suggestions for improvement, and proofread everything will be an enormous help.

Find the Right Schools

Transitioning from high school, where you may have particular support systems or even an individualized education plan (IEP), to college can be daunting for some students with dyslexia. For that reason, it’s important that you take into consideration not only how to apply to college, but what schools will best support your learning style.

We’ve written at length about what students with learning challenges should look for in a college. Make sure you know what academic resources you need, and don’t be afraid to ask questions as you look at colleges. Finding the right fit is a challenge for all students, but it’s even more important for those with dyslexia and related challenges to do their research carefully before selecting schools.

Final Thoughts

Applying to college is an enormous and challenging undertaking; for the majority of students, it’s the biggest project they’ve ever completed. Students with dyslexia will encounter many of the same challenges they face in school, but magnified to an unfamiliar degree.

At the same time, students who successfully live and learn with dyslexia are in some ways well prepared for this challenge. By using the same coping mechanisms for this process that they do to succeed in school—including making a plan, getting the right accommodations, and getting the right support for writing essays—they can have a manageable and successful application experience and minimize the stress typically associated with the college admissions process.

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