Preparing for College for Individuals with ASD and Other Disabilities

by Amy Goodman
Co-Director, Autism NOW Center

August is back-to-school month and for students who plan on attending college in the near future, we hope that you use this time to think and plan ahead. Students with autism and other developmental disabilities may have to take extra steps when it comes to preparing for college such as applying for disability support services; therefore, it is important to start the planning process early on. This article will provide an overview of the admissions process and offer suggestions to help make it a smooth one.

The Admissions Process
Students are often encouraged to start thinking and planning for college during their junior year of high school since the admissions process, which consists of multiple steps, requires a good amount of preparation. Below are the major tasks that students will need to complete for admissions into college:

  • Noting/making important deadlines for the SATs/PSATs or other test if appropriate
  • Filling out college applications and writing accompanying essays
  • Requesting letters of recommendations from teachers/adults
  • Submitting college applications, either electronically or by mail
  • Learning about financial aid options and thinking about how to pay for college
  • Checking with colleges to make sure applications are complete
  • Responding to the acceptance letter to notify the college/university of your choice that you plan on attending
  • Preparing for the college tours
  • Asking for accommodations, if necessary
  • Obtaining medical records from a doctor
  • Applying for housing needs
  • Applying to disability support services

Staying Organized
To make sense of the steps listed above, it is always helpful to make a plan or a checklist. Write down the tasks that you need to complete, along with their deadlines to ensure that you submit applications and other documents in a timely manner, and check tasks off as you complete them.

Keep everything organized in a folder labeled “College/University.” Within the folder, you can create sub-folders with labels such as “Test Scores/Applications,” “Letters of Recommendation,” and “Essays.” If it is helpful for you, mark the deadline on top of each folder and highlight them. Another way to keep track of deadlines is to have a wall calendar specifically dedicated to due dates and deadlines for submitting materials. Place this calendar somewhere that you can easily view it.

Saving Time and Energy
Staying organized can save you a lot of time and energy! Below are a few other time-saving tips to always keep in mind as you are working through your college applications:

  • Make sure to keep multiple copies of original documents that you are sending.
  • Read the directions carefully before filling out the application. Read the entire application to make sure you understand the questions being asked and that you have all relevant information you need before starting.
  • Fill out applications completely. Never leave anything blank, as it can create delays and issues in processing.
  • Pay attention to detail. Ask someone to read through your application and essay before you send it. Having a second pair of eyes to review the information can eliminate typos and spelling errors.
  • Call or e-mail to confirm that your application was received by the correct person, so that you are aware if your application gets lost or misplaced.

Remember, it is never too early to start planning ahead for college! Preparing for college may feel like an overwhelming task; therefore, do not hesitate to reach out to others for help. Your guidance counselor is a good person to go to. Set up an appointment to meet with him/her and bring your parents or guardian along to discuss your options and the steps you need to take. Additionally, the “In The Classroom” section of the Autism NOW Website ( offers great information about going to college. Another good resource filled with useful information and personal experiences is “Navigating College: A Handbook on Self-Advocacy Written for Autistic Students by Autistic Adults,” jointly produced by Autism NOW and The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN).

Good luck with this process and best wishes for getting accepted into the college or university of your choice!

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One thought on “Preparing for College for Individuals with ASD and Other Disabilities

  1. Hello,

    Thanks for sharing this very useful article. It can be somewhat over whelming for someone with a developmental disability to attend college and deal with the social aspect. I think that would be a great follow up blog topic to this blog.

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