Explaining Learning Disabilities in Ivy Applications


Question: My son is applying to seven colleges right now. He has one safety, one match and five reaches (all Ivies). His grades are slightly lower than some of the standard Ivy league applicants (he has a few B's and one C) but he has a 504 plan at school due to some learning disabilities. However, his IQ tests have shown he is very bright. How do we explain his disabilities in the application or essay? We want the schools to know he has extenuating circumstances.

The best place for your son to explain his disabilities is on the “Additional Information" page of his applications. But if he's already earmarked this section this for another purpose, then an unsolicited letter or essay is fine, too. He could also use his main essay for this reason if he thinks that he has an engaging story to tell (although it's hard to weigh in here without knowing what his issues are). I often suggest to students that by choosing “Additional Information" to describe disabilities or other obstacles while writing the primary essay on something else, it conveys a message that proclaims, “Yes, I've had these problems but they don't define me."

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