To disclose or not to disclose?

Recently, I had the great opportunity to speak with a group of local families about the transition to college and best practices for student success. I always love connecting with students and parents and educating them on the ins and outs of college life, and this was a fantastic reminder that even though we may be apart physically, we can still come together virtually and discuss this important topic!

One question that many families had is, “should my student disclose their disability diagnosis in the college application process?” My (perhaps unsatisfying) answer was, “sometimes!”

The reason for this answer, of course, is that this is a deeply personal question and requires some in-depth thinking to decide whether it’s a good option for you. Let’s think through some of the reasons a student may wish to share a diagnosis during their application process:

  • Some students will share their diagnosis in their personal essay, perhaps around the impact it has had on them, adversity they’ve overcome, or special or unique characteristics or strengths that may be connected to their disability.  
  • Other students may share their diagnosis in an application’s optional additional information question, which can be a more straightforward statement. Sometimes, students might explain an upward trajectory in grades, perhaps due to learning more about oneself and better use of accommodations over time.  
  • Other students may choose to disclose a diagnosis during an interview with an admission representative, perhaps as part of a question about disability services and other resources on campus.  
  • Finally, some students may simply choose not to disclose anything until after being admitted and enrolling at a school.  All of these options are absolutely fine and depend on the student’s preference and needs.

Whether a student chooses to disclose or not, there is loads of information that students and families can learn on each college’s disability services website. I always encourage students to review this office’s information to learn more about the college’s approach to working with students with disabilities.

Perhaps most important to know: at no time in the application process should a disclosure of a disability have an adverse effect on a student’s application. This would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008.

No matter a student’s decision to disclose during the application process, it will be important for students to self-disclose once they have decided on a school, in order to ensure that they request and receive reasonable accommodations. 

Are you or your high school student seeking support in the college search and application process? I’d love to connect and learn how I can help! Please reach out to to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

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