Applying for college can be a daunting task for any student. Add to it a learning disability and filling out tedious forms and writing multiple essays becomes even more stressful. The Common Application for Undergraduate College Admission, which is designed to simplify the process by allowing students to apply to multiple schools with the same application, can help make the application process easier for the LD student. Schools using the Common Application use a holistic approach to evaluate students, rather than simply focusing on grades and test scores, encouraging integrity, access and equality in the college admissions process.
Benefits of the Common Application to College
By bringing a holistic approach to the application process, the more than 400 colleges and universities that use the Common Application for Undergraduate College Admission factor in more subjective pieces of information, such as essays, teacher recommendations and midyear reports, when making their decisions about admission. For LD students whose grades and test scores may not reflect their true knowledge and abilities, the holistic approach offers a chance to showcase strengths and explain learning disabilities.
Students filling out the Common Application have multiple opportunities to explain their merits and explain any disabilities that may have affected their performance in high school or significant obstacles they have overcome to enhance what they have achieved. A discussion of a learning disability and significant achievements may be uploaded as a personal statement in the additional information section or turned into the theme of a personal essay.
Many of the schools that allow the Common Application require supplemental material. This material typically includes an additional essay question. For the LD student, even though having to write multiple essays may seem like a frustration, it is actually a benefit. The majority of the essay prompts focus on either describing how you have overcome a challenge, what makes you a great fit for a specific college or explaining your educational goals. All three types of prompts give an LD student an opportunity to highlight the positive aspects of a learning disability and show that they have goals and identities beyond their disabilities. It is also important to remember that because the schools using the Common Application are committed to integrity, equity and access, disclosing a learning disability will not be held against a student.
· Limitations of the Common Application
As with any piece of technology, the Common Application has its own limitations. Many of the fields in the Common Application have word limits, which can make it difficult for LD students who already struggle with words to answer the questions. In addition, special characters or software some LD students use to help with word processing may not be compatible with the application. The sheer amount of text contained on the Common Application and the busyness of many of the pages may also be a hindrance to some LD students, particularly those with reading disabilities and visual perception disabilities.
· Filling out the Common Application
The Common Application, like most college applications is text-heavy, which can be a burden for some LD students. However, the application may also be filled out online, making it easier than a traditional paper application for other LD students. With the option to save the form as they go, students do not have to rush as they fill out the application. This means they can take their time reading through the sections of the form and gathering the relevant information. Once the application is complete, all forms can be printed and reviewed before officially submitting them to the chosen colleges and universities.
Because over 400 colleges and universities use the Common Application, many students opt to apply to multiple schools using the same application. LD students who have difficulty with organization and keeping track of information will appreciate that feature of the Common Application system. Once students have completed the application, it keeps track of which schools the application has been submitted to and whether transcripts, teacher recommendations and other supporting documents have been received.
However, even though it is easy to submit an application to these universities, LD students must still carefully select the colleges and universities they choose to apply to. Before filling out either the Common Application or a school-specific application, it is important to research specific schools to find out what services they offer to accommodate LD students and whether their general approach to learning, such as large classes in lecture halls versus a small teacher to student ratio, will help you experience success.
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