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College Planning for Neurodiverse Students – Part 2

COVID-19 disrupted the college planning process in many ways. Most striking was the move by thousands of colleges and universities making the SAT and ACT optional for applicants. These 3 ½ hour long tests can be particularly challenging for neurodiverse students. Fortunately, it is possible to apply for and receive accommodations such as time and a half or multi-day testing with the appropriate documentation.

3 Steps to Requesting ACT Test Accommodations

ACT Procedure

Step 1: Register for an upcoming test date; the registration has to be done before accommodation requests can be made. Go to

Step 2: Student will receive an email from the ACT and this email must be sent to the student’s school official responsible for submitting accommodation requests to the ACT. This is typically a person in the counseling office, or the disability services department. Along with this email, students must also submit the following:

Step 3: The school official must submit the request along with the appropriate documentation to ACT. In 10-14 business days, ACT will email the school official with its Decision Notification. ACT offers these common accommodations:

  • Taking the test within the standard allotted time, but with additional breaks

  • Alternate testing formats (like use of a computer for essays)

  • Time-and-a-half extended time

  • Reading accommodations (such as assistive technology and readers)

3 Differences with the SAT

SAT Procedure

The College Board which administers the SAT has similar procedures to the ACT with these notable differences:

Difference 1: Students are not required to register for a test before requesting accommodations.

Difference 2: The College Board has documentation guidelines that vary by disability.

Difference 3: SAT offers these common accommodations:

  • Computer Accommodation

  • Extra and Extended Breaks

  • Reading and Seeing Accommodations

  • Four-Function Calculator Accommodation

College Search Tips

The college search process is the same for neurodiverse students as neurotypical ones; however, there are additional criteria that must be explored when building the college list. Finding the best fit college means also researching what services the Student Disability Services (SDS) office provides, accommodations offered, experience and size of office staff, and assistive technology available to name a few essential areas. Resources students and parents can use to find this information include:

  • College’s website – search “Student Disability Services”

  • In-person or virtual visit, email, or call SDS office

  • K & W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences

Disclose or Not Disclose

Since colleges can’t, by law, ask a student about their disability, is there ever a reason for disclosure on the college application? It depends. I recommend disclosing a learning issue to address obvious discrepancies, such as when a student began high school with weak grades but achieved a solid upward trend later. By explaining that they learned to manage their learning disability, or had a late diagnosis, students can address these inconsistencies. Disclosure is also recommended if a student’s grades are high, but SAT or ACT scores are weak, or vice versa.

The focus of the disclosure should be on how the student is affectively managing their learning issue. It isn’t wise to blame the learning disability or to use it as an excuse; rather, acknowledge what the official diagnosis is, how it affects the student in the classroom, and what tools/strategies they have learned to be a successful scholar.

Securing Accommodations in College

After a college has been chosen and the deposit paid, students should reach out to the SDS office to apply for accommodations. Colleges have different procedures as to how this is done; however, the typical steps include:

  1. Completing an online application on the SDS office home page

  2. Present current (preferably within the last three years) and appropriate documentation (see part one of this blog for an explanation of appropriate documentation)

  3. Schedule an intake interview with SDS office staff

This should be done as soon as the student has submitted the enrollment deposit, ideally in early May of senior year. By requesting accommodations months before moving into the dorms or classes beginning, the student can benefit from any summertime transition programming the college offers. Also, the staff from the SDS office can be extremely helpful in guiding the student through the myriad of new tasks and activities that go with being a new freshman.

College Admissions Counselors Specializing in Working with Neuordiverse Students

If you or a family you know would benefit from working with a college admissions counselor who specializes in working with students with learning and attention disorders, as well as students on the autism spectrum, click here to book a complimentary consultation with Royal College Consulting’s Founder and CEO, Janice Royal.


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This blog was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.

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