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Articles / Applying to College / Admission to Harvard with Learning Disability?

Oct. 11, 2013

Admission to Harvard with Learning Disability?

Question: Will having a learning disability hurt my chances of admission to Harvard University?

Harvard is one of the most selective institutions in the universe, as “The Dean" suspects you already know. Many outstanding applicants are turned away each year. If you have a learning disability but can submit an application that demonstrates that you belong at Harvard, you will be in the running. For instance, if you are a brilliant writer and yet you struggle with math, then you will be evaluated based on what you HAVE achieved and not on what you haven't. Similarly, if your standardized test scores are below the Harvard norms, but you have been successful both in and out of the classroom, admission officials may cut you some slack on your tests if you provide documentation of your learning disability. However, the admission folks don't want to set up any candidate for failure, so your application will have to prove that you can handle a rigorous curriculum in a competitive environment.

If your learning disability has limited you in some ways but you have excelled in others, then you should feel free to give Harvard a shot. But, again, Harvard sets the bar very high for ALL applicants, so if you have deficiencies in one or more areas due to your learning disability, you will have to show Harvard that you are exceptional in others.


Finally, before you apply to Harvard (or anywhere else), do your “homework." If you will require accommodations for your learning disability after you enroll in college, you should research the services available on campus as well as the documentation required to get these services For more information from Harvard's Accessible Education Office, see http://aeo.fas.harvard.edu/documentation.html The mere fact that Harvard actually has an “Accessible Education Office" suggests that you won't be alone if admitted. But “The Dean" did have to dig pretty deep to find it!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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