HomeLearning DifficultiesHealth & DevelopmentLife After High School

Teens With LD and/or AD/HD: Shopping for College Options

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By Loring Brinckerhoff, Ph.D.

Developing a Transition Planning Portfolio

The transition planning portfolio (TPP) is a personal file that the student develops and maintains throughout the high school transition planning process. It may consist of three or more sections that are tabbed for easy referencing. An artist carrying case with a handle would be the ideal size for the portfolio, although the traditional paper and pencil sections may soon give way to a series of electronic file folders contained in a personal website or in an "e-portfolio."

  • The first section should contain the student's school and medical records, and copies of IEPs, high school transcripts, and a one-page summary of the student's extracurricular activities.
  • The second section should contain the student's disability documentation including the most recent psychoeducational evaluation with a specific diagnosis, listing of all approved accommodations, and a copy of her ACT and/or SAT scores.
  • The third section could contain post-secondary school information, questions to ask during the college interview, a completed copy of the common application form, an updated resume and/or personal essay describing her learning disability, and non-confidential letters of recommendation. Additional sections can easily be added to showcase the student's interests or achievements (e.g., newspaper clippings, photos).

The transition planning portfolio is not only an organizational tool, but it is also a repository of support materials for a student to use to market or "package" herself. The transition planning portfolio should be nearly complete by the end of tenth grade with updates inserted as warranted. The development of the portfolio could be accomplished as an "independent study" project or as part of a summer transition program between the junior and senior years of high school. IEPs crafted within this time frame should include a transition planning objective such as: "By the conclusion of 10th grade, Christine will have assembled her own personal transition planning portfolio."

One of the keys to success for any student with LD and/or AD/HD is to be able to articulate what her disability is all about, how it impacts her day-to-day functioning, and how she has learned to compensate for it. In order to field interview questions about her disability, it is useful for the student to write a brief 1-2 page essay about her LD and/or AD/HD. This exercise of putting on paper the exact nature of the disability is often extremely helpful. It can serve as a springboard for discussion between the student, the LD specialist or school psychologist, and the parents. Parts of the essay could even be folded into an admissions essay. In any case, the student should plan ahead and decide whether or not she will disclose her disability at any stage of the college application process. If an applicant chooses to reveal her disability, she should tie the disclosure in with her documentation and present a rationale for the disclosure (e.g., explain why certain requirements such as foreign languages have not been met, or why certain grades are lower than expected). Students might also suggest in the essay that admissions personnel focus on some of the unique abilities that were noted by the evaluator who conducted the psychoeducational or neuropsychological testing.

Today is an exciting time for high school students with LD and AD/HD to be looking for postsecondary options. Students with learning disabilities need to do their research carefully to be sure that the kind of support they need is in place at postsecondary institutions they are considering (Block, 2003). It is hoped that this article will help students chart their own destinies as they find the perfect "postsecondary match."


  • Block, L. S. (2003). Distinctions between K-12 and higher education requirements. In Peterson's colleges for students with learning disabilities or ADD. (7th edition). Lawrenceville, NJ: Peterson's.
  • Brinckerhoff, L.C., McGuire, J.M., & Shaw, S.F. (2002). Postsecondary education and transition for students with learning disabilities. (2nd ed.) Austin: TX PRO-ED.
  • Mangrum C. T., & Strichart, S. S. (1998). Peterson's colleges with programs for students with learning disabilitis or attention-deficit disorders. Princeton, NJ: Peterson's.