How High School Students Can Find the Documentation Requirements For College Admissions Exams and College Accommodations
Also available as a PDF download.
As high school students prepare to take the ACT or SAT, they may wish to ask for disability accommodations on these exams. This is likely the first time your student will be asked to provide proof of his/her disability – called “documentation” – in order to substantiate a need for adjustments. Be aware that these agencies do offer disability accommodations (and they do not “flag” the scores of students who use accommodations), but they also get to decide what proof students need to provide to them in order to have their requests for accommodations considered.
Students can find information about the documentation required for each testing agency by checking their websites:
ACT – http://www.actstudent.org/regist/disab/
SAT – http://student.collegeboard.org/services-for-students-with-disabilities
These agencies may require testing or information that your student’s high school has not required in order to provide him/her with services and accommodations. To see what details you should pay attention to while reviewing the testing agencies’ guidelines, see Elizabeth’s hints.
Once they have gotten accommodations on the ACT or SAT, students are not done looking at documentation requirements, as colleges, too, require students seeking accommodations to provide their documentation, and each one will have its own requirements, which may be different from the ones students had to meet for the ACT or SAT.
What high school students should know about disability documentation requirements for the SAT, ACT, or college
The testing completed by your school district’s child study team is likely to be accepted by a testing agency or college. This testing will meet most requirements for elements like being printed on letterhead (or the district’s stationery), being performed by qualified professionals, etc. Though many documentation requirements say that there has to be a summary and a diagnosis, colleges and testing agencies generally understand that district child study teams don’t always provide these, and they will very likely accept the separate reports from the school psychologist and the learning specialist without any fuss.
One caveat to this is that some agencies and schools will be particular about the age of the testing (though you should know that the Association on Higher Education and Disability – a professional organization that provides guidance but does not make laws – encourages colleges to show flexibility on this point). Also, some agencies or schools will require that students be tested with the adult versions of tests (such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Fourth Edition, or WAIS-IV, rather than the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition, or WISC-IV). If the agency or college rejects your student’s disability documentation on these grounds, appeal to that body for some flexibility before giving up and pursuing additional testing. And you should not pay for private testing if you have concerns about the documentation your student currently has until s/he tries submitting the documentation, has it rejected, appeals this initial decision, and has the appeal turned down. Families should not spend the time and the money on private testing unless they are absolutely sure that they have to do so.
How to check disability documentation guidelines for colleges
Before they send in their request for accommodations at the college they will be attending, students and their parents should check the disability documentation requirements to make sure that their documentation has the elements that are required. Start by finding the college’s homepage. In the search feature of the page, type in the words disability accommodations.
On the website of some schools, this search will bring up a link to the Disability Services (DS) office. But some schools don’t like to use the word “disability” in their name. As a result, these schools’ offices may have names that might not make it obvious that they are in charge of disability services, so the first link that comes up in students’ search may not seem correct, even though it is. Here are some of the names schools call the office that administers accommodations:
Equity Learning Center
Access Academic Center
Access & Equity Learning Support
Diversity Academic Support
Learning Disabilities Special Programs
Learning Resource Center Academic Success Center
Once students get to the right page, they should be able to find links that say “documentation guidelines,” or “documentation requirements.” Some schools will have the same requirements regardless of the disability type, while others will have different requirements for different kinds of disabilities, such as learning disabilities or medical disabilities. Some schools will be very specific about what tests students must have in order to have their requests reviewed. For more on what to pay attention to when looking at these guidelines and checking documentation requirements, see Elizabeth’s advice on this topic.
Many schools’ guidelines require tests of cognitive ability, academic ability, and information processing. This last item often causes confusion. The tests typically given to evaluate cognitive ability are the Stanford-Binet, Wechsler Tests of Intelligence (Adult or Child Scale), and the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability. All of these testing batteries contain subtests that will cover what colleges and agencies are looking for to assess information processing, so additional testing is unlikely to be necessary if students’ evaluation includes one of these tests as the measure of cognitive ability.
Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) should look carefully at documentation requirements for testing agencies or colleges
Students with ADHD whose high school has granted them accommodations may find that documentation requirements vary greatly from college to college, and they should pay close attention to these. For an example of more-extensive requirements some schools have, see University of Tennessee’s guidelines. Do not pursue this kind of extensive testing unless your student is accepted by and decides to enroll at a school with such requirements, as the time and expense will prove to be unnecessary if s/he student attends a college with less-rigorous requirements.
If your student with ADHD needs to pursue private testing in order to apply for accommodations from a testing agency or college, see Elizabeth’s advice on how to choose a qualified professional and what you should expect to see in a good private report.
Ask questions for clarification about documentation requirements
If you do not understand whether the documentation your student currently has contains what is required, call and ask questions of the agency or school to which your student is applying for accommodations (have the testing handy). The testing agencies have phone numbers for this purpose (they can be found online on the page for disability accommodations). If your student is applying for accommodations at college, call the Disability Services office for the school (or whatever office makes disability accommodations). If the person who answers the phone does not know how to answer your questions (it may be a student worker), ask to speak to the director or someone called a “coordinator” to ask whether the documentation your student has meets the requirements for that college. It won’t take long to read that person the list of tests contained in your student’s documentation and have him/her confirm that they have what is necessary. (To save time on the phone, make a list of the tests included in your student’s report –it’s faster than paging through the report.) Make it clear that you don’t expect this person to give you any sort of approval for accommodations over the phone, but rather that you just need to make sure that the tests in your student’s documentation cover the requirements.
For more on all of these topics, see Elizabeth’s book.