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5 FAQs About Requesting Health-Related Accommodations on Campus



Heading to a college campus is daunting for anyone, but particularly for students who require accommodations and aren’t sure where to start. In many cases, those with physical disabilities and health conditions must spend a significant amount of time advocating for themselves throughout their college years.

To get a handle on how students can best navigate this process, College Confidential sat down with Annie Tulkin, founder and director of Accessible College in Washington, D.C., and former associate director of the Academic Resource Center at Georgetown University, Georgetown’s disability support office (DSO). Check out Tulkin’s advice to students with health conditions and physical disabilities.

College Confidential: How important is it for students to tell colleges about any disabilities or health needs during the application process?

Annie Tulkin: Students don’t have to disclose a disability during the application process, but they may choose to talk about it, particularly if they have educational gaps due to medical treatments or illnesses. Additionally, discussion of a disability might also be a part of the student’s personal narrative. They may have overcome something that they want to talk about in their college essays, but they don’t have to disclose a disability. It’s important to note that college admissions committees don’t know if a student got extra time on the ACT or SAT unless the student discloses it. The admissions process is totally distinct from the disability support office and the college accommodations process.

CC: What can students do during the college search process to ensure that they select a school that will best accommodate their needs?

AT: Research! Students can check out the websites of the DSOs to get a sense of the services and supports that the college offers for students with disabilities. If you have a physical disability, try to visit the schools you’re considering. It’s difficult to get a real sense of what it’s like to get around campus from a virtual tour. Even in-person tours may not be accessible to a wheelchair, due to things like oddly placed staircases or cobblestones. All universities are technically required to be ADA compliant, but technical compliance does not always equal usability for every individual. Students with physical disabilities and/or health conditions will need to first identify their needs, then they can use that to inform their college search processes. For example, someone who uses a wheelchair may want to consider looking at places with more temperate climates and less snow, or places that are flat if they use a manual wheelchair. Someone with a health condition that requires specific treatment may opt to stay close to their treating physicians, or choose a college with a medical center.

Typically, the students I work with are looking at academic fit like every other student, they just have additional considerations to factor in. A big part of the equation is connecting with DSOs up front. I usually recommend that when a student narrows their college search down to approximately five schools, that they have conversations with DSOs to find out what services and supports that college offers. It’s important to the student to get a sense of the people in the DSO, who the student will be interacting with at least once a semester in order to get their accommodations in place. This conversation with the DSO can help students determine what accommodations they may be able to receive, and where they feel the most comfortable. Additionally, prospective students can ask to be connected with current students with similar disabilities to learn about their experiences on campus. Depending on the college and campus, things can look very different from school to school .

For example, some schools have accessible buses that can transport students with physical disabilities to classes, and at other schools the expectation is that all students will walk/roll to class. Colleges may also have disability resource centers, support groups, or identity groups. In connecting with the DSO prior to applying, students can get a sense of what is available on campus, and how supportive the school will be for them. It’s important to understand that the college accommodations process is very different from what students may have been used to in high school. In college you have to self-disclose your disability to the DSO and request accommodations. Additionally, each semester you will connect with your professors to provide them with an accommodation letter, which outlines accommodations that you have been approved to receive. Students have to be comfortable discussing their disability and their needs. For many students, this is uncharted territory.

CC: What should students do to ensure they can get the resources they need at college?

AT: Colleges and universities are required to provide accommodations for students with documented health conditions or disabilities, but students must first disclose those disabilities. At a small college that doesn’t have a lot of students, there might be an “ADA or 504 Coordinator,” however, most schools have a DSO (note: the DSO may have a difference name. Some examples are Access Services, Disability Support Services or Academic Services). It’s the student’s responsibility to request accommodations in college. This typically involves providing documentation and participating in the interactive process, where the student discusses their functional limitations and the types of accommodations they are requesting with a counselor in the DSO. For example, if a student has a gastrointestinal issue (i.e.: Crohn’s disease or IBS) and they are seeking accommodations, the student would set up a time to meet with a counselor in the DSO, provide documentation, have a conversation about their needs, and request accommodations. They may have frequent flare-ups of their condition and they may request academic accommodations such as breaks during class, breaks during exams and extensions on assignments. They may also need housing accommodations such as a private bathroom and dining accommodations to accommodate a specific diet. It’s important that students are able to effectively articulate what they need. Depending on the college, the counselor in the DSO may recommend accommodations or they might solely rely on the student to request specific accommodations.

CC: If a student had an IEP or a 504 plan in high school, does that carry over to college?

AT: The short answer is “no.” Students can receive accommodations in college, but they no longer have an IEP or a 504 Plan. The term “IEP” comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a law that provides rights and protections for students with disabilities in public schools in the K-12 setting. Colleges provide accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). Section 504 protects students from discrimination on the basis of a disability. Students who had an IEP in high school will get transition planning as part of the process of moving into post-secondary education. However, this planning may not be comprehensive, so it’s important for families to do their own research and preparation. Students with a 504 plan don’t receive transition planning, so if the student has a 504 plan for a health condition, such as migraine disorders, epilepsy or another health condition, be sure to have conversations about college transition. The transition process needs to start early. Too often, parents are the driving force in the accommodations process in high school, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities for students to learn self-advocacy, executive function and effective communication skills. Many states offer transition guides that outline skills that student should be working on from grade nine to 12 in order to be prepared for the transition to college.

I work one-on-one with students and families starting in high school to determine the accommodations they need based on their current functional limitations, and what questions to ask up-front to select a college that will be a good fit for them. I often work collaboratively with college counselors and college consultants who can support the student in finding the best academic fit. The students and I craft questions based on individual needs, and think through specific scenarios so that when they speak with a counselor in the DSO, they are prepared.

I also assist students in developing self-advocacy skills. This up-front work in the college search phase, combined with the research they are doing with a college counselor/consultant, can be immensely helpful in identifying colleges that will be a good fit for the student.

CC: When should students with conditions start the process of identifying schools and finding out what accommodations they’ll need?

AT: As early as possible. At most schools, students start working with a college counselor around sophomore year. Some families opt to hire a college consultant to support the students in the college search, selection and admissions process. At Accessible College, I work with students in the college search phase, all the way through college. One way that students can begin to work on becoming an effective self advocate is know their needs. This usually starts with understanding their condition and how it impacts them in school, at home and socially. College accommodations apply to all areas on campus: academic, housing, recreation and programmatic. Sometimes, students are exhausted by the focus on their conditions, but it’s important to engage in conversations about transition early so students can be prepared to request accommodations in college so that they can be successful. Some students may be on the fence about requesting accommodations, but I advise them to get the accommodations approved to have in place just in case they need them.


By: Torrey Kim
Title: 5 FAQs About Requesting Health-Related Accommodations on Campus
Sourced From:
Published Date: Mon, 06 Jul 2020 11:24:55 +0000

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Apply Online For Student Loans



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Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid



Many families are facing new financial challenges in light of the coronavirus emergency, and College Confidential has fielded dozens of questions on this topic recently. To address those queries, we hosted a webinar on April 9 entitled “Paying for College Amid Changes Due to the Impact of COVID-19.”

During the event, moderated by Aaron Murphy, manager of learning and development with Inside Track, the following panelists offered their perspectives on the issue:

  • Denise Trusty, director of financial aid with Morehead State University
  • Laura Reisert Kalinkewicz, associate vice president of college partnerships with RaiseMe
  • Amy Nelson, director of sales at International Scholarship and Tuition Services
  • Charlie Javice, founder and CEO of Frank.

Check out the following topics that the panelists discussed, along with their views of how things may unfold amid the financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

Family Finances Changed? Contact Your Schools

If you plan to start college in the fall as a freshman — or return to school as an existing student — and your financial situation has changed since you applied for financial aid, you should contact the colleges on your list immediately. Financial aid departments can consider appeals for more money, but must base these decisions on each individual student’s situation, Trusty said.

“I know with Morehead State, where I work, we will be doing professional judgement calls on all students who say they’ve been affected,” she noted. “We will reach out to those students to see what we can do to help them maybe obtain additional funding, additional grants, scholarships, whatever they would be eligible for. We do professional judgment all the time for our students, because things happen all the time. This year will be an especially large amount of those, I’m sure, but those are up to individual schools to make that call for their students.”

In addition, she added, the Department of Education has set aside over $6 billion for additional grants and scholarships that the universities will be able to use. “Currently, I don’t know how that’s all going to play into this,” Trusty said. “So that will be up to each individual university on how they lay those out. I know it will be beneficial, I just don’t know how available that will be to each student.”

Keep in mind that schools are accustomed to reviewing financial aid appeals, and they all have processes in place for to do so. “It is really, really important to know that schools typically leave a budget from 10 percent to 20 percent or so of their financial aid dollars for what would be called a professional judgment bucket,”Javice said. “Therefore, there is additional money to be had, and it’s up to you to request it. You should approach your school as soon as you know you might need more money, and be prepared to show supporting documentation demonstrating how your finances are different from when you filed your FAFSA initially. This might require proof of a job loss, medical bills, a cut in pay or another such issue, Javice said.

In addition, if another school gave you a better financial offer, you can petition the school that gave you the lower offer for more money, Javice noted. “This typically works better for private institutions versus public state schools, given the fact that they have a little bit more discrepancy and more dollars to put to work in terms of a tuition discount,” she added. “This is solely up to the school on a case by case basis.” In some cases, the money is distributed on a first come, first serve timeline, so don’t wait if you know you need more aid.

Although financial aid can be a stressful topic, try not to be emotional when you request more money, Javice added. You’ll get a lot further by having organized documentation to present than you would by getting angry or upset, she noted.

Consider Outside Scholarships

The coronavirus situation has changed plans not only for incoming freshmen, but also for current college students, Nelson said. “Organizations are stepping up and trying to find ways to provide additional scholarship opportunities this year,” she noted. Students should be proactive in seeking those options.

Raise Me is offering new micro-scholarships for students who are seeking additional funding sources, Kalinkewicz said. In addition, she encourages students to ask colleges for more time to make decisions, even if the school hasn’t extended its deposit process. You can always try and request additional time to get your financial aid package right, she noted.

Finding more money is not relegated to younger students, Javice added. “Adult learners comprise the biggest group of people actually going to college today,” she noted. It’s very common for people to be seeking new types of skills and going back to college to gain additional degrees. Financial aid is available to adult learners, and they may even get aid to pay such costs as rent, she added. In addition, they can seek outside scholarships or employer-matching funds to pay for their educations.

Not Necessarily Too Late to File FAFSA

Students who didn’t file a FAFSA already should do that as soon as possible so you can get access to financial aid funds, Javice said. Federal FAFSA deadlines are usually in June, but states make their own deadlines for state aid. Some states, such as New Jersey, have moved their deadlines back for this year, so check to make sure you stay on top of your deadlines.

And if you file for financial aid and you decide you don’t want it, you can always decline the financial offer or portions of that offer, Nelson said. Your best bet is to apply so you can take what you need and decline any amounts you don’t need. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should apply anyway because you could be surprised at what you’re offered. “You really need to complete that [FAFSA] process every year,” Nelson said. “The process is very easy, and jobs can come and go. It’s your safety net and you want to make sure you’ve completed it. It makes it a whole lot easier when situations like this arise.”

Some colleges also have supplemental applications to fill out for particular types of aid, so always reach out to your financial aid office for information on which documentation you should be completing, Kalinkewicz said.

Could Families — Not Schools — Be in the Driver’s Seat?

Because many merit scholarships are based on test scores and GPAs, some high school juniors are concerned that they won’t have access to those in the coming year. With test dates being canceled and grades moving to pass/fail, they fear they won’t meet the criteria to earn such scholarships.

“It’s clear to me that colleges and universities know the extraordinary circumstances we’re under,” Nelson said. “All schools are leaning forward and considering all options as the situation develops. I would continue to encourage juniors to stay engaged and stay informed.” You should also watch to see what happens with test dates, she said. The ACT and SAT dates could change, and some schools may forego the need for a test score altogether, she added.

In addition, some merit scholarships that have traditionally been based on test scores may become test optional, Kalinkewicz noted.

Keep in mind that in many cases, families are in the driver’s seat rather than having the colleges be in charge, Javice said. Some schools have lost revenue and are very eager for students right now, “so if you are scared because you thought you could never get into a specific school from an admission criteria standpoint, this is your year to stretch, this is your year to think about the schools that are your reach category and go for it, because schools need the money and need the students. So the power that used to be in an admissions office is in you, the student or the family’s hands,” she said.

She also advises juniors to request application waivers from schools to save the $50 to $100 or so per application that they would normally pay. The schools may say no, but it won’t hurt to ask, she advised. “Persistence is key when dealing with schools,” Javice noted.

Federal Student Loans Payment Suspended

As many families are aware, payments on federal student loans are automatically suspended from March 13 through September 30, 2020 thanks to the government’s CARES Act. This is essential to keep in mind, particularly for families that have multiple children in various stages of the college process.

“You will stop paying your loans and you will have zero interest from now until September 30, and that’s important for parents to know,” Nelson said regarding existing federal student loans. “If you had an auto draft, the auto draft has been shut off and will not continue. You can, however, continue to make those payments if you’d like, and any interest you had before March 13, once that interest is paid up, all your payments will go directly toward your principal.” She advises families with federally-backed loans to check with their loan servicing agents, because they have a lot of information for both parent and student borrowers on how the CARES Act will impact payments for the next six months.

Student Job Gone? Colleges Might Help

For students who expect to earn money via part-time or full-time work to pay for college, but can’t do so due to the coronavirus, colleges may have resources to help. “There are many colleges and universities that have put together emergency grants for students to cover expenses that they were maybe not expecting because of COVID-19,” Nelson said. “They are making accommodations to try and make up for that lost income for students.”

Trusty said Morehead State is continuing to pay students who were on federal work-study. “If they had a job, we are still paying them right now as if they were working, although they are not. In the summer, those funds will be flipped over to emergency grant funds. So we will make sure that our students are covered and can live as if they were employed with the work-study position.”

Some colleges have even made remote work available to students, Kalinkewicz added. Therefore, contact your financial aid office to determine if any accommodations are available to make up for lost student income whenever possible.

Consider Other Options to Save

If you are seeking ways to save money on college, you should also consider other resources, whether that means less expensive colleges, in-state options or potentially transferring down the road, Janice said. You can also save money by taking classes at a community college to pay a lower cost for your credits that can be transferred to a four-year college later.

“If you have that target institution in mind — maybe you’ve already been admitted there but your family has determined a year of community college will really help stretch things further — work on articulation agreements or a plan so you are taking the right classes that actually have the ability to transfer toward the degree you want at your target institution, not necessarily just as credit,” Kalinkewicz said.

In addition, many colleges offer merit aid for transfer students, she added. So always look for every potential financial aid and scholarship resource to best maximize your package and allow your dollars to stretch as far as possible.

Resource: To review the entire hour-long webinar, you can watch the replay here.

Share Your Thoughts

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!

By: Torrey Kim
Title: Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 10 Apr 2020 15:22:20 +0000

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