When it comes to compiling your list of colleges to apply to, fit is the most important decision factor. There are thousands of colleges in the United States, including many schools with programs tailored to students with special needs.
To pinpoint the choices that best align with your student’s unique learning and developmental needs, research is crucial. Keep reading to learn more about various colleges with special needs programs that might become best-fit options for your student.
American University (Washington, DC)
American has an intensive program for freshman called Learning Services Program (LSP). Students meet weekly with a learning counselor. They attend a special section of the freshman writing class and meet weekly with a writing coach for that course. Students in the program are paired with an upperclassman who is their LSP mentor.
Beacon College (Leesburg, Florida)
Founded in 1989, Beacon is the first accredited college offering four year degrees designed around the needs of students with diagnosed learning disabilities. They offer both bachelor and associate degrees in an environment specifically created to help our students thrive and engineer amazing, abundant lives for themselves. The group of parents who conceived of Beacon College did so knowing that given the right environment, support, and tools, all students can succeed. The College is committed to student success, offering academic and personal support services that help each student achieve his or her goals.
Bellevue Community College (Bellevue, Washington)
OLS at Bellevue College is an innovative 90 credit associates degree program unlike any other program in the nation. This program gives adults with cognitive disabilities the opportunity to acquire an accredited college degree that leads to post-graduation employment rates well above the national average. The curriculum is occupational and life skills based taught through scaffolded instruction and universal design.
Curry College (Milton, Massachusetts)
The faculty at Curry’s Program for Advancement of Learning (PAL) work with students individually and in small classes. Students take one credited PAL course each semester. The program focuses on reading, listening, writing and organizational skills. For an extra fee, PAL has a summer program to help with the transition from high school to college.
Daemen College (Patchogue, New York)
The Gersh Experience takes a comprehensive and customized approach to providing support for students on the autism spectrum who have received a high school diploma or equivalent. The transitional program offers students four levels of support—social, psychological, life skills and educational—while developing independence.
Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, West Virginia)
Students in the Supported Learning Program work with a program instructor for an hour a week to develop academic and organization skills. They also come for five hours a week of supervised study hall. The program monitors their progress throughout the semester, based on goals they set at the start. There are weekly group meetings for students with ADHD and executive functioning issues.
Dean College (Franklin, Massachusetts)
Dean’s Arch Learning Community is a step-down program. This means it starts out with intensive support for two years and decreases over time. In the beginning, students get three hours a week of academic coaching. They also attend smaller-group courses and a weekly seminar. Students can remain in the program for four years if they pursue a four-year degree. (The college also offers two-year degrees.)
DePaul University (Chicago, Illinois)
DePaul University is committed to providing students with disabilities equal access to DePaul’s educational and co-curricular opportunities so that students may fully participate in the life of the university. The Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) services are available to students with diverse physical, learning, medical, mental health and sensory disabilities. The Center offers supports to students to achieve their academic goals while promoting their independence. CSD is a resource to the many university departments that share the responsibility of supporting the members of our diverse learning community.
Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
The Drexel Autism Support Program (DASP) is a student-centered program for current Drexel students with the goal of promoting academic and social competency, self-advocacy, interpersonal skills, independent living, and social integration. Their goal is to ensure that DASP participants take advantage of University life, develop the academic and social skills needed to pursue career opportunities, and lead a full and enriched life. DASP values neurodiversity and all the benefits that diversity contributes to the greater societal good. We value the individual along with individual differences and support personal growth through understanding their strengths and how those strengths can build and support areas of need and personal development.
Hofstra University (Hempstead, New York)
During the past thirty years the Program for Academic Learning Skills (PALS) has been serving students with specific learning disabilities and ADD or ADHD at Hofstra University. There is a onetime fee for the program, which provides every student with a learning specialist from freshmen year through to graduation. Each student is paired up to meet individually with an experienced learning specialist. All students come to us with a unique intellectual profile and with different academic dreams. Hence, the PALS’ curriculum can best be described as a dynamic, innovative and evolving relationship between each individual student and his or her instructor.
King’s College (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania)
The college offers a three-tier program for freshmen called First Year Academic Studies Program (FASP). Students start out meeting individually and in small groups with a learning specialist four hours a week to build executive functioning and learning skills. Support decreases as the year goes on. The program also works on self-esteem, stress and anxiety issues.
Landmark College (Putney, Vermont)
Landmark College pioneered an entirely new postsecondary vision for students with learning disabilities when it first opened its doors in 1985. Since then that vision has evolved to include other students who learn differently: those with ADHD or ASD. Landmark College’s mission is to transform the way students learn, educators teach, and the public thinks about education. They provide highly accessible approaches to learning that empower individuals who learn differently to exceed their aspirations and to achieve their greatest potential.
Lesley University (Cambridge, MA)
Threshold at Lesley University is a non-degree postsecondary program for young adults with diverse learning, developmental, and intellectual disabilities. For more than 35 years, we’ve been helping students navigate life with confidence. At Threshold, dorm living, student activities, and a curriculum focused on career training and independent living create a college experience that feels both authentic and supported. Students get support from caring faculty and staff at every step of their journey.
Lynn University (Boca Raton, Florida)
Students in Lynn’s Institute for Achievement and Learning (IAL) work with academic coaches to build learning and executive functioning skills. The program offers four types of tutoring: content, group and individual tutoring, plus process tutoring to help with writing, speaking and organization. Some courses at Lynn are taught by IAL fellows trained in different teaching strategies.
Marist College (Poughkeepsie, New York)
The Learning Disabilities Support Program at Marist pairs each student with a learning specialist. Freshmen meet with the specialist twice a week to work on learning, organization and study skills. Students may still get individual support after the first year. But they’re expected to become more independent as time goes on. The program prepares students to discuss their learning issues and needs with professors.
Marshall University (Huntington, West Virginia)
The College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder was established in 2002. Students participating in the program have met acceptance criteria for Marshall University and have been admitted to The College Program through a separate application process. The program uses a positive behavior support approach to assist participating students. Social, communication, academic, leisure and personal living skills are assessed through person-centered planning. Personal goals are identified and strategies are developed based on the individual needs of each student. The program seeks to help students learn skills which will help them earn a college degree, work in their chosen field, and live a productive, independent, and quality life.
Marymount Manhattan College (New York, New York)
Academic Access is a fee-based program for students with learning disabilities that is specifically designed to foster academic success. Through accommodations and multifaceted support, students with learning difficulties will be able to handle the Marymount Manhattan curriculum along with their peers and classmates.
McDaniel College (Westminster, Maryland)
The McDaniel College community is caring and supportive, with high academic and personal expectations for each student. The goal of the College and this program is to enable every student to achieve a full and productive life. Student Academic Support Services (SASS) assists all students with documented disabilities. The SASS Office works with each student on a case-by-case basis to determine and implement appropriate accommodations based on individual needs.
Mercyhurst College (Erie, Pennsylvania)
The Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) is designed for students who, while exhibiting superior intellectual ability, face challenges in executive functioning and social interactions. It is estimated that, within the next five years, one in every 100 college applicants will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. With support from AIM’s professional staff, our students on the spectrum have succeeded both academically and socially. Student input has helped shape the program; our students participate with faculty and staff in an advisory board to identify what students with ASD require to succeed on this campus.
Misericordia University (Dallas, Pennsylvania)
All students entering the University receive a Disability Declaration Form from the Admissions Department which affords them the opportunity to seek academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and services under Section 504 free of charge. Students with a documented disability may seek services at any time. Students may also elect to apply to Misericordia University’s Alternative Learners Program (ALP). ALP is designed to provide support to students with disabilities that extend beyond those accommodations required under the University’s Section 504 program. ALP students pay a fee each semester for participation in the program.
Mitchell College (New London, Connecticut)
The Bentsen Learning Center Program (BLCP) at Mitchell offers different levels of support over the four years of college. (Mitchell also has a two- year degree program.) Freshmen meet with a learning specialist three times a week. The program focuses on learning skills, writing and career readiness. Mitchell runs the Thames Academy, a gap-year program to help kids with learning and attention issues transition to college. Students can earn college credit.
Muskingum College (New Concord, Ohio)
The PLUS Program at Muskingum offers three levels of support: full-service, maintenance and independence. Students start with full-service support, meeting with a learning consultant for an hour each week. They also get at least one hour per week of tutoring for each course they take. Students are encouraged to take a reduced course load each semester.
Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts)
In the Learning Disabilities Program (LDP) at Northeastern, students work with a learning specialist for one hour, twice a week. As part of the program, students must commit to attending all classes and LDP sessions. The program specifically works on building students’ motivation and persistence.
University of Arizona (Tuscon, Arizona)
Students in the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT) Center meet weekly with a learning specialist to work on executive functioning, attention and learning problems. The program also offers tutoring and regular workshops. Topics include things like test taking, time management and reading. Students in the SALT Center can get individualized training on educational and organizational technology from a tech coach.
University of Connecticut (Storrs, Connecticut)
Beyond Access (BA) provides an opportunity for students to work smarter, not harder, in a competitive academic environment while also preparing for life beyond college. Students enrolled in BA work closely with a trained Strategy Instructor (SI) to design and customize their program based on their individual goals and learning profile. Students can chose to meet with their SI for three hours a week (Track I) or one hour per week (Track II) to work on developing skills such as: time management and organization, study skills, stress management, self- advocacy, memory and concentration, social skills, career preparation, health and wellness, and reading and writing strategies.”
University of Denver (Denver, Colorado)
Students in the Learning Effectiveness Program (LEP) meet with a counselor for an hour a week to develop strategies for learning and organization. (Students have access to a professional organization expert). LEP also offers academic-content tutoring that uses different pathways to learning. Information might be presented visually or through movement, for instance. Students can participate in a mentoring program where they work with younger children who have learning and attention issues.
University of Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa)
UI REACH (Realizing Educational and Career Hopes) is a comprehensive transition program for students ages 18-25 years old with intellectual, cognitive and learning disabilities. UI REACH offers an integrated college experience in a caring and structured environment. UI REACH students will have a Big Ten college experience and be empowered to become independent members of the community. Coursework, campus life, and career experiences will prepare you to reach your full potential and achieve your goals.
University of the Ozarks (Clarksville, Arkansas)
The Jones Learning Center (JLC) offers students daily one-on-one access to the academic support staff to work on academic and organization skills. There’s no limit to how often they can meet. The program also provides peer tutoring and note-taking services. JLC offers specific support for students with autism spectrum disorder.
West Virginia Wesleyan College (Buckhannon, West Virginia)
Students in the Mentor Advantage Program (MAP) meet with tutoring staff several hours a week. They work on general organization skills along with strategies for specific courses. Freshmen attend a course on making the transition to college. MAP also provides evening drop-in hours for extra support. For an extra fee, the program offers a daytime check-in option for organization help, studying or test review.
Every student’s needs, preferences, and goals are different, which is why it is so important to do your research and stay true to your own priorities. If you are beginning your college search and looking for advice on navigating the process as a special needs student, our team of college admissions experts can provide personalized guidance.