What to look for in a school if you have a disability

Tips on how to pick your school

Choosing the right college is a big decision—and for students with disabilities there are additional considerations. From accessibility accommodations to support services, finding a school that meets both academic and personal needs is super important. Here are a few things to think about before making a decision.

Advocating for yourself is essential

Look into support services. Most colleges have an Office for Disability Services (ODS), a Disability Services Office (DSO), or a variation of the two. This is a place to discuss and find support for your specific accommodation needs. Look for colleges with robust DSOs that offer a wide range of services, including things like note-taking assistance, extended test-taking time, sign language interpreters, and more.

Research accessibility. If needed, research the school’s accessibility features. This includes looking into campus facilities like classrooms, dorms, and recreational areas to make sure they’re set up with ramps, elevators, and other accommodations for mobility-impaired students. Also look into transportation options and how close any needed medical facilities might be.

Assess academic programs. Check out the academic programs offered and make sure they match up with what you're into and where you want to go in your career. If they are, investigate if the faculty is trained to help students with disabilities and if there are any extra resources that are available to you.

Get a feel for campus culture. Look for colleges with a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, where students with disabilities are welcomed and have the support they need. A lot of schools have student organizations and campus initiatives dedicated to disability advocacy and awareness—this is where you’ll want to be.

Search out scholarships. Research scholarships, grants, and financial aid specifically for students with disabilities. Scholly by Sallie* is a great place to start your scholarship search—all you have to do is share a little about your background and you can start getting matched with free money in just minutes. There are also tuition waivers and discounted rates for students that require additional accommodations—make sure to look into those, too.

*By clicking the Scholly by Sallie link, you’ll go to our trusted affiliate Scholly’s site. Any information you provide will be shared with Sallie Mae and will be covered under the terms of the SLM NitroCollege, LLC privacy policy.

Visit the campus. If possible, visit the campus to get a first-hand look—and to see if you like it! Schedule meetings with disability support staff, faculty members, and admissions counselors to address any questions or concerns you may have. Take note of the campus vibe and how comfortable you feel—that’s what matters most.

Connect with your peers. Connect with other students with disabilities who have attended or are currently attending the schools you're looking into. Online forums, social media groups, and disability advocacy organizations can be extra valuable for gathering firsthand experiences and recommendations.

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Don’t settle for anything less than full support

Picking the right college as a student with disabilities means thinking hard about how easy it is to get around, what help you'll get, what classes they offer, what the vibe is like on campus, and how you'll pay for it. If you really look into all these things, talk to other students, and speak up for yourself, you can find a college that's right for you—one that not only helps you learn, but also makes you feel welcome and supported.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

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