Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

Should I Disclose a Learning Difference in My College Essay?

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Guest blogger: Joanna NovinsShould I disclose a learning difference in my college essay?

To Disclose or Not to Disclose?

As I a writer, I’ll admit, I’m a bit fixated on essays. So naturally, I wondered whether college application essays are the appropriate place for a student to disclose that he or she has learning differences.

When I asked, admissions officers and college disability professionals all gave me the same answer: it’s not necessary. Although, as one administrator noted, “A lot of students don’t disclose because they have decent grades, but if you’ve had a bad year, you should address it. Parents should call and shop around,” she said, adding, “I don’t want kids to come here and flounder.”

Colleges want to know that the students they admit will be able to work independently—which is why essays are so focused on learning about how students problem solve and how they’ve overcome personal challenges. They’re aware that LD students will be in need of some form of support, such as additional time taking tests or organizational strategies, so LD students also need to show that in addition to meeting this criteria, they’re resilient and know how to successfully self-advocate.

If you do decide to disclose in your application essays, consider the following:

  • A story about how you’ve learned to work with your disability or overcome prejudices could be a compelling Common Application essay.
  • An explanation of how your disability has affected your grades in a specific area of study might be worth addressing in a supplemental essay.
  • Whether you disclose in the Common Application essay or a supplemental essay, your focus should be on what you’ve learned from the experience about working more effectively.

Note: If you decide the essay isn’t the right place for you to disclose a learning difference but you want to address it, use the additional information portion of the Common Application. You don’t need to write an essay for this section; a well-written, straightforward paragraph or two will give the admissions committee the information it needs to fully understand your transcript and background.

For more information read the related post:
Questions to Ask About College Services for Learning Differences

Joanna NovinsJoanna Novins is a professional writer and analyst by training, but the challenges facing students with learning differences is a topic that is near and dear to her heart. She teaches writing to students with learning differences and is the proud parent of a smart, successful, and highly independent college student with a learning difference.  Joanna holds a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a bachelor’s degree with honors in history from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an independent writing consultant for First Impressions College Consulting, teaching college essay writing to students of all abilities.




Author: Sharon Epstein

College consultant, teaching students how to write memorable college application essays, grad school and prep school essays, and succeed at job and college interviews.

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