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Articles / Applying to College / Can I Find out If Colleges Will Address Medical Needs Without Disclosing Them?

Nov. 5, 2018

Can I Find out If Colleges Will Address Medical Needs Without Disclosing Them?

Can I Find out If Colleges Will Address Medical Needs Without Disclosing Them?
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My son is applying to colleges now and he seems to have the right stats for the schools where he's applying. But he also has some medical conditions that will need to be addressed in college that a school wouldn't necessarily know about unless we told them. How do we ask whether the schools have resources for his issues without explicitly telling them which conditions he has? We don't want his issues to impact the admissions decision, but we only want him to go to schools that have appropriate resources for him.

With a little effort, organization and garden-variety Google skills, you can gather all the information you require without tipping your hand to admission officers. For each college that your son is considering, use the website to find phone numbers or email addresses for the health services and the disability services departments (the latter will be called by different names at different schools.) Depending on the specifics of your son's conditions, you may need the assistance of one of these offices or both. The former will focus on medical concerns, of course. The latter is where you'll go for accommodations, although this office often serves as the “general contractor" that can help you coordinate all of your son's special needs. Simply contact the appropriate office and explain the situation. The disabilities services office can tell you not only what assistance is available but also what sort of documentation your son will require to receive this assistance, if he matriculates. It's very possible that you won't ever have to disclose your son's name, but — if you do — rest assured that his privacy will be respected.


Note also that students frequently go beyond the immediate college community for medical treatment. Even if there are adequate resources on campus, you may find — as many parents do — that preferable options exist nearby. Your hometown practitioners may be able to point you in the right direction.

You can also find school-specific discussion forums on College Confidential and post a general query there, asking if other families have used the health or disability services at that particular school and — if so — whether they were satisfied. Unless your history on CC reveals personal data that might point right to your son (e.g., where you live, his extracurricular endeavors), then you should be able to maintain your privacy here as well.

If your son's college list is long, your research could be time-consuming, but it will definitely help you to confirm whether his target schools offer appropriate care for him without disclosing his medical conditions to admission committees.

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If you'd like to submit a question to College Confidential, please send it along here.

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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