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By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

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About this blog: We are writing this blog to give practical advice to students and parents, to reflect on issues affecting college admissions, and to provide a platform for a robust community discussion on post-secondary choices. We occasionally f...  (More)

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Building a college list

Uploaded: Sep 9, 2015
(written by Lori McCormick)

Students thoughtfully research colleges, attend college representative visits on their high school campuses, and gather information from outside resources, such as friends and family members to help them determine which colleges to apply to.

While it can be a daunting process, it doesn't have to be. There are books and websites to help with the research process.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1. The Colleges That Change Lives is in my opinion, the best book for finding those diamond in the ruff campuses where you truly have a life-changing experience.
2. The Fiske Guide to Colleges The overlaps section is my favorite.
3. College Board's Big Future has many filter options to help you narrow your search.

When determining your college list, it is best to apply to colleges that fit your personal criteria (academic profile (test scores, GPA), location, majors, campus culture, etc.).

What search tools did you (or your child) use to help build your college list? Please share!
What is it worth to you?


Posted by SpEd, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 9, 2015 at 10:28 am

I'd love to see a list of colleges that do a good job educating kids with special needs?ADD, ADHD, LD, Aspergers, etc.

Posted by John Raftrey and Lori McCormick, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 9, 2015 at 10:43 am

John Raftrey and Lori McCormick is a registered user.

Dear SpEd,
Great question!
Two colleges, off the top of my head, are Mitchell College's Bensten Learning Center and University of Arizona's SALT Center.

Then, doing a quick Google search I found this link:

Hopefully our community can help you build a list!

Lori McCormick

Posted by SpEd parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables,
on Sep 9, 2015 at 12:26 pm

SpEd,since the bloggers apparently have no clue and since you don't mention the nature or severity of your child's challenge, may I suggest that you consider mainstream universities. My Asperger child had a great experience at UC Santa Cruz, and would have been equally happy at most of the other UCs. Why on earth would you spend a fortune sending your kid to a distant no-name school that will only serve as another impediment when s/he looks for a job?

Posted by SpEd, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 9, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Thanks, John and Lori. I've heard good things about U of A's SALT program. My child has severe ADHD FYI, but I thought that a broader list would be helpful to other parents as well.

Posted by Another SpEd parent, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:01 pm

I remember looking through guidebooks of colleges for LD, etc. students when we were looking for schools for my older son, who has Asperger's, learning disabilities, and anxiety issues. I just now entered "colleges for students with learning disabilities or adhd" into the Amazon Books search field and got a list of resources (some of them older; do check publication dates). Your child's high school guidance office probably has copies of some of these.

If your child is on the autism spectrum and you need extra support, including with the living situation, you can check out the College Living Experience, which has a location near CSU Monterey Bay (Web Link There is also another organization of this sort (whose name I cannot recall) with a different set of locations. Warning: These programs are very expensive (they are privately run, not part of the universities themselves), and this is in addition to tuition payments to the university itself.

Landmark College ( is a college in Vermont expressly for students with learning differences (but not behavioral or emotional issues). It is also very expensive, and I think it's just a two-year school. I noticed on their website that they do have some sort of summer institute in Berkeley that aids in college readiness.

Don't overlook the possibility of starting your child off at a community college. It is a great option if your child needs a gentler introduction to college, and if living at home is desirable because your child needs help with self-advocacy (which ours did, and still does). Foothill has some good resources for students with special needs. Also, most of the general-ed classes your child will need in any case are available in a small-class format at a community college; your child will not be in a 500-person lecture hall for Freshman English. It's also a good opportunity to find out what your child's particular college challenges are now that you no longer have all the support that the high school must provide via an IPE, and to address these issues while you parents are available to help out on scene, so to speak. It's also way cheaper than any other alternative, your child can continue with their current physicians and therapists (if appropriate), and it gives you more time to figure out what four-year school would be the best fit to continue their education.

Posted by Another SpEd parent, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Oops, I meant "IEP" above. (Or a 504, for that matter.)

I should also add that if looking at "mainstream" colleges is more apppropriate (as someone above said worked well for her child), do carefully check out what support resources are available through the school's disability center, and how easy it is to actually access those resources.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Sep 9, 2015 at 5:50 pm

We are just starting this process but like Nos. 1 & 2 on your research list. We will take a look at the Big Future site. We also use the Naviance site, but the scattergrams are intimidating. They make it seem like every college requires GPA 4.0+ SAT 2400.

Thanks for all the great tips and advice.

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