Should I Disclose My Learning Disability on College Apps?

high school student outside of school building
Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

If you are one of the thousands of high school students with a learning disability, you may be unsure about how to approach the college application process.

Should you disclose your learning disability on your college application? Or is it better to keep it to yourself?

To disclose or not to disclose

You are not required to tell a college about your learning disability when you apply. In fact, colleges aren’t legally allowed to ask or use that information in their decision. So it is entirely your choice to disclose your learning disability. 

You may have heard that schools have a quota of students with disabilities that they need to accept.

But that is a myth.

There is no quota. Disclosing your disability won’t make you more likely to get accepted. That doesn’t mean it will hurt your chances, though.

Colleges are looking for whole, complex people to admit as students—not just perfect students. If you have a learning disability, you are still a great candidate for college. And the admissions team will be sure to see that, whether they know about your learning disability or not.

Reasons to disclose your learning disability

Your learning disability is an important part of who you are. You don’t need to be afraid to share that with your potential colleges.

Succeeding in school with a learning disability shows you can overcome challenges, which colleges love to see.

If you get accommodations, it means you are proactive in making your education work for you—another asset when it comes to college.

Having a learning disability provides a great way to discuss specific examples of your perseverance and work ethic.

How to disclose your learning disability

There are a couple places on the college application where you can mention a learning disability:

  • Put it in your essay. You can write about your experiences with your learning disability in response to an essay prompt.
  • Write it in the additional information section. This section is for you to add any extra information you want to share, so it’s a great place to mention your learning disability.

If you do disclose, go ahead and state the specific learning disability and the effect it has on your grades, test scores, etc. It can help put your grades in context, and can help explain low test scores and high grades, for example.

If you were recently diagnosed or began receiving accommodations, disclosing your learning difference can help tell the story of your high school grades. For many students, grades improve after they get accommodations.

If you give colleges this information, they won’t have to guess at why your grades got so much better, or why your grades are great but your test scores are lower. 

If you need support with your college applications, Empowerly is here to help. Talk to an admissions counselor today.  

Questions? Let us know!