Should a student with a learning disability share that information on their college application? This is a tough call. In some ways, a learning difference is a sort of “secret identity” that might best be kept secret. But for some students, it is essential that they disclose their learning difference in the admissions process.
A 2007 survey from the Association on Higher Education and Disability reported that just 28 percent of students with learning disabilities graduate from college. And only 25 percent of students with an identified learning difference take advantage of the services available to them on college campuses. Perhaps this is because many students want to shed the label and stigma of “special education” and are unwilling to ask for the help they need. Or maybe they believe that because they have entered the college arena they need to be completely independent. Even the decision to initially disclose a learning disability is a tough one. Should students disclose this information or keep the diagnosis private? Today I’ll provide some information that can help you sort out if self-disclosure is necessary.
During the school-age years, a student with a learning disability is identified formally so that she can receive appropriate instruction and services. In this environment, school faculty and staff understand the complexities of managing life with a learning disability. Therefore, opportunities for the student to practice self disclosure of her disability are rare and infrequent. Then again, because it is illegal for colleges or universities to directly ask if a student has a disability and because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) no longer applies after a student graduates from high school, a student no longer has to be identified as learning disabled if she does not want to be. Obviously, students who are applying for a specific program targeted towards LD students will disclose a learning disability without hesitation. But others may feel more hesitant. When deciding, consider the following questions:
- Why would my student want to disclose his learning disability?
- What are the short and long-term risks and benefits of his decision?
- What’s in it for my student?
Since this decision is a difficult one for students and their families, over the next two days, I’ll examine the advantages and disadvantages of disclosure.