Starting the College Selection Process

Begin the process as early as possible; at the end of your Freshman year or the beginning of Sophomore year in high school. Start with these three steps:

A. Prepare yourself for college personally and academically.
B. Search for the right college.
C. Seek financial aid. (See Financial Aid Resources handout)

Prepare Yourself
  1. Develop a resume in high school of grades, community service and extra curricular activities. Explore your interests.
  2. Develop your self advocacy skills.
  3. Learn self care, and independent living skills to the degree possible.

Prepare Yourself Academically
  1. Like any other student, become well informed about the college admission testing requirements, procedures and deadlines.
  2. Develop sound study skills
Prepare Yourself Personally: Take Time for an Honest Self Evaluation
  1. Know your academic strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Determine the accommodations you need for daily living and in the classroom.
  3. Determine your preferences in terms of college size, location, and area of academic interest.
  4. Determine your preference concerning commuting to college or residing on campus.
Search for the Right College
  1. Get all the information possible from your high school Guidance Department about programs in your state for students who have a disability. These programs can be academic and/or financial.
  2. Contact your state's Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) for information about personal assistance, special training programs, internships, transportation and financial aid.
  3. Contact your state's Office for Post-Secondary Education to learn about any special programs for students with disabilities already in effect at your state's public colleges and universities.
  4. Contact the Office for Students with Disabilities at your nearest community college or at your state's public university to learn about their programs and procedures.
  5. Use the Internet as part of your college search.
    1. Web sites can provide information about colleges and universities.
    2. Web sites can provide information about financial aid.
    3. Every college and university has a web site; some with special sections for prospective students.
    4. Take virtual tours of colleges you hear about and are interested in through their web sites.
  6. Become familiar with general graduation requirements of colleges you are considering.
  7. Become familiar with the requirements for the major(s) you are considering.
  8. Go visit the colleges you are seriously considering.
  9.  If possible, stay overnight on the campus of the colleges you are most serious about.
The College Visit
  1. Arrange ahead of time to supplement the regular tour with a tour that is
  2. tailored to your particular needs.
  3. Have your own checklist of needed accommodations for college offices including the Financial Aid Center, Registrar, and Business Office, Student Center, bookstore, classroom buildings, restrooms (in multiple locations), labs, libraries, health center, sports and recreation facilities, dining center, dormitories, social facilities, parking and campus transportation.
  4. Ask specific questions.
  5. Get a sense of how inclusive the campus is in attitude. Are students with disabilities housed in a separate facility, or among the general student body? Are there disability related clubs or adapted sports teams? Do disabled students participate in student government, etc.?
  6. Determine whether the campus has a full office for disability services or an individual who serves as service coordinator.
    1. Determine what types of academic support services are available and if there are any extra fees involved. (e.g.: note taking, study groups, assistance for the hearing impaired, alternative exam procedures)
    2. Learn what types of personal services are available (wheelchair pushers, personal care attendants.)
    3. Get a profile of the students with disabilities who already attend (types of disabilities, total number, and percent of total student body) and make arrangements to contact some of these students.
    4. Discuss existing strategies available through the college/university for dealing with accident, injury and time away from campus with    out loss of credit, (i.e. completing course by Internet, completing course by independent study)
  7. Meet with a representative of your intended major.
    1. Learn if other students with a physical disability have been accepted in their program.
    2. Discuss availability of internships, etc. for a person with your disability.
  8. Meet with a representative of the Career Center, and determine if any special services are available for students with disabilities.
  9. Evaluate Medical Facilities
    1. Tour campus medical facilities.
    2. Gather information about nearby community medical facilities.
    3. If the college you are considering is in a different city from your current home, seek a referral from your current primary care doctor or orthopedist for an OI knowledgeable doctor near your college.
The Bottom Line:
Determine whether this particular college or university offers the education, the services and the physical accommodations that YOU need.

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