College Admissions & College Success – SAT/ACT Accommodations & Learning Disabilities


Greetings Students and Families,

Many teens are diagnosed with learning and emotional disabilities– some requiring accommodations.   I partner with various providers and their families to understand and navigate a myriad of issues that surface relating to course selection in high school and college, college applications, college essays and having high school accommodations extended to SAT, ACT, AP and IB exams.   Learning and preparing to navigate seamlessly through school and the workplace requires support that allows each student to feel confident and ready to embrace their path in meaningful, joyous and impactful ways.

It’s fairly routine to have your student tested for and  receive Accommodations for any potential learning disabilities — ranging from testing anxiety, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, Executive Dysfunctioning, Dysgraphia and others.  Begin with a conversation with your family physician for an appropriate referral to a specialist.  Early assessment and evaluation are essential to building a plan for your student to manage and navigate their educational path with ease.  There are a myriad of special educational services available to students at all levels of education.   In middle and high school, some parents are unnecessarily concerned about a perceived stigma and the impact on college applications.  Rest assured – college applications do NOT entail nor require submitting any information about your student’s medical records, accommodations or anything remotely related to personal information outside of any voluntary information a student might want to reveal in a personal college admissions essay.

Accommodations in High School:  SAT/ACT

SAT and ACT Testing Accommodations for Learning Disabilities

The College Board received 157,000 requests for testing accommodations.  I recommend that students apply for their accommodation as soon as possible as this covers not only the SAT/ACT but your AP exams.
If you’re approved for a testing accommodation, it’s important that your SAT prep tutor administer a diagnostic tool to help you determine whether the ACT or SAT format is most suitable for you. Some formats align more effectively with specific learning disabilities.  Your test SAT / ACT test preparation should incorporate and adjust for your accommodations.  For example, if you have extra time, your tutor should be teaching you how to effectively leverage this accommodation to realize your full potential and earn a high score.
Please be aware that the ACT organization will only approve accommodations if the student has been professionally diagnosed and if the student receives the same  accommodations at high school.  ACT also requires students to register for a specific test date at the time you apply for the accommodations.
The College Board requires accommodation requests to be submitted seven weeks in advance of your scheduled  test date. Please start the process early allowing for time for appeals if necessary.  While having your high school support (preferably submit) your accommodation request is extremely helpful, it isn’t necessary. Parents can do so independently  if necessary. There is no stigma with requesting accommodations and this information is NOT shared with college admissions or anywhere on your college application.

Testing anxiety is a genuine issue for students affected.  For some students, an accommodation can be invaluable to addressing and resolving test anxiety. Please speak to your family physician for a referral to a licensed psychologist specializing in evaluation and providing the support you need to create the appropriate accommodations not only for testing but for success throughout high school.
Accommodations might include extended time, isolated test taking or keyboarding for disabilities including ADHD, executive function disorders or physical disabilities such as visual processing or handwriting, and mood/anxiety disorders including test taking anxiety.
It’s certainly not uncommon for students to feel uneasy at exam time; but some students have experienced test anxiety and a variety of biological and emotional symptoms which inhibits the student from performing to the best of their abilities. Students recognized their cognitive and/or physiological responses to anxiety should consult a qualified and licenced health care professional. A licensed psychologist should be consulted to diagnose testing anxiety and create a plan for treatment allowing the student to feel empowered about the outcome and situation.  Preparing for exams and relaxation strategies will help students with test anxiety. Your psychologist should and can coordinate with your tutor.


College Essays– Should You Discuss Your Disability?

The short answer- it depends! The Common App prompts have been fairly predicable and remain relatively unchanged for 2021-22- (there’s a new prompt on “kindness”).  REgardless of the prompt you select each of the 7 available choices  are all essentially the same version of the same question requiring students to respond to a prompt that reveals for the reader how a student navigated high school to share a story about family, school, travels, work or personal interests in a way that shares sufficient information demonstrating your strengths, character, vision and the person you will be joining the freshman and campus community.  So…..Is your disability a defining aspect of your persona? Is this the best topic you want to be recognized/known for?  If you strongly see your disability as defining – then clearly , write about it.  Chances are, even the “struggle” you may have encountered is less important to understanding how you fit into the campus than some other life experiences you might share.  Let’s discuss!

Whether you’re ready to write your college essays or just beginning to research colleges and majors, or perhaps you want to create a customized summer reading plan to explore or deepen an academic/personal interest, I invite you to contact me to schedule your Educational and College Planning Assessment available for current seniors and all middle and high school students

Financial Aid, FAFSA Scholarships

Accommodations in College: Extending your High School IEP/504 Plan into College

Colleges recognize that a growing and significant part of the college-aged student population have documented learning disabilities.  The range of support services offered to students has increased dramatically in the past two decades.  Since students are residential – the range of support services oftens exceeds what was made available to students during middle and high school.  Assistance ranges from counseling services, residential dorms with designated staff to classroom accommodations such as those encountered prior to college including taped lectures, extended time on exams and isolated/distracted free testing.

If you qualify for support at the high school level and had a IEP or 504 Plan in place, once you’ve committed to enroll at college, you’ll receive a host of information, including medical forms (vaccine records, medical information, release etc) that provide details on accommodations. The college maintains a disabilities service office and it’s there where the student will provide documentation (if testing was more than “X” years ago you may need to revalidate the disability) of the learning disability and begin the process of securing the accommodations for housing and instructional /classroom issues.  If your student does qualify for support, you will want to be very thorough in exploring the available services at every college on your list.  All colleges will be able to provide routine accommodations including extended time and special testing arrangements.  Not all colleges have the resources or reach to provide other services including taped lectures or more complex issues.  Regarding dorms,  students who may need a single dorm room should make sure that the freshman dorms do offer this option to students.



Current 9th and 10th grade students with testing accommodations/504 plans should begin the process now of registering with both the College Board (SAT) and  ACT 
Ideally, your high school guidance counselor is your guru here- but I’ve heard push -back – especially from high GPA students.  “She has great grades- no need” – Ignorance is not helpful.   If you need assistance, please reach out. Parents can self-submit accommodation requests — you need the appropriate medical professional documentation, but do NOT need your guidance counselor’s approval for an accommodation request at the College Board or ACT organizations.

Colleges Offering Strong Support for Students with Learning Disabilities

There are many universities offering support services, but some colleges are well known as providing stronger services and attention.  If you qualify for support, it’s important to incorporate this factor into your consideration of universities.  If possible, during your campus visit, stop in at the LD support office and discuss the opportunities for support offered to undergraduate students.

American University, University of Arizona, Bard, Beacon, Clark, UC-Boulder, University of Denver, DePaul,Fairleigh Dickinson, University of Georgia, Lynn, Manhattanviille, Marist, Marymount, Mercyhurst, University of New England, Northeastern, Purdue, Rochester Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, Vermont

IEP vs 504 Plans

IEP Defined

The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a plan or program developed to ensure that a student with a  disability identified under the law who is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.

504 Plan Defined

The 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a student with a diagnosed disability identified under the law receives  accommodations fostering academic success and access to the learning environment.

All student who have disabilities don’t necessarily require specialized instruction.

Your courses and extracurricular experiences throughout high school may be impacted by your situation – and your college plan, including testing and finding the right campus “fit” are unique.  Please reach out to discuss your unique situation.



Your Personalized Educational and College Admissions Plan Results in Motivated, Self-Directed & Confident Young Adults Ready to Succeed!

Based in Boca Raton in South Florida,  and Boulder/ Denver, Colorado Bonnie R. Rabin, PhD provides comprehensive educational planning and college application advising to students in-person and remotely throughout the US.

With over thirty years of experience as a university professor & admissions committee member you’re invited to leverage her extensive knowledge of university curricula and career opportunities to BUILD YOUR COLLEGE PLAN!.

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with College Consultant Bonnie Rabin, PhD
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Wishing you excellent health and peace during these uncertain and challenging weeks ahead.


Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Educational and College Admissions Consultant
Professor Emeritus  –
Cornell University Alumni Rep
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