How to Choose a College

Kathy Cook, Disabled Student Services, UW, and Jane Sparks, DO-IT counselor

The process of choosing a college can be confusing. There are many questions a student needs to ask, and if you are a student with disability you may have unique concerns. Starting with a self inventory will put you on the right track to selecting the college that not only fits your interests and finances, but also specific needs as they relate to your disability. Below are basic questions to answer in your search for the perfect fit".

  • How prepared am I academically? Have I taken the same courses in high school as my non-disabled peers who are preparing for college? How good is my vocabulary and what is my reading level? Do I know how to write a good term paper? Might I need to take some remedial coursework?
  • What do I want to study? What courses did I enjoy in high school? What types of long-term career goals do I have? What are the entrance requirements for these fields of study?
  • Where do I want to study? In what type of environment do I learn best? Do I prefer smaller classes with more one-on-one interaction with professors, or larger classes with less direct contact?
  • How much tuition can my family afford? What types of scholarships and loans are available?
  • What types of accommodations will I need? Some types of accommodations are legally mandated and others are not. If you need tutoring or other types of accommodations you should check the availability of these resources at each school. Be sure to contact the offices on campus that provide services to students with disabilities.
  • What additional campus resources are available? Some campuses have writing centers, tutoring centers, access to email or other on-line resources, and other academic-related resources. If the school offers these resources to their students they are required to make them accessible to students with disabilities.
  • What services are offered through the campus office of services for students with disabilities? Each campus has an office or a person who is responsible for providing accommodations to students with disabilities. Contact this office and talk to them about your needs. They may be able to provide some suggestions that you haven't thought of.

Completing a self-inventory is an important step in narrowing down your choices. Your local high school or community college should have resources to help you search for schools which fit your preferences for the location, size and academic programs of interest. Try to narrow your list down to about half a dozen or so institutions and proceed from there!

Follow up and follow through. This is a time to be proactive and vocal about your needs as a student. Find out who can help you and then talk to that person. Ask for a referral to anyone else who might be able to help you. Be sure to get all of your questions answered! The school you choose is a very important decision that will have a tremendous impact on your academic future.

Reference: How to Choose a College: Guide for the Student with a Disability. To receive a copy of this booklet, contact HEATH Resource Center, One Dupont Circle, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20036.