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How do colleges handle applications of children with health issues

DIBM96DIBM96 Registered User Posts: 150 Junior Member
edited November 2012 in Parents Forum

I have a question that has been bothering me for quite some time now and today, I came across this site and registered myself. Here I go:

Can anybody specify a list of colleges that look at a student as a whole taking into account all the circumstances using which the student has reached that level rather than just the routine SAT scores + GPA + extra-curricular activities?

My daughter is a Junior at a very challenging High School. The issue here is that although she is very motivated to work hard and do well in school, her fate has been such that she has been having a health issue that has been bothering her every year almost since her 4th grade. She is still not fully recovered from her illness or its side-effects. Nevertheless, she is still working hard and trying to cope up with the stress of the Junior level in High school with 4 AP courses.

Now, my concern is: would there be colleges who will look at her tenacity and the persistence in her goals (in spite of her health) that has made her reach this level? If the colleges are just trying to compare her GPA with another perfectly healthy child's GPA, then obviously, she will take a hit.

I am so confused on how to have her make colleges look at her consistent hard-working ability, her strong will-power and her scores rather than just the scores. She had a major set back even in her sophomore year because of which she missed 10 weeks of school but she bounced back even with a major back surgery.

She in fact wanted to work in a clinic that caters to back-injury patients and so has found a place where she volunteers her time. She says that makes her feel better to see people worse than her.

As a mother, I can see how much she is in pain but the fact that she wants to go to a college of her dreams (UCLA or NYU) makes her sit until 3AM to either study for the test or work on her AP homeworks/essays, etc without caring for her back. Many times, it scares me thinking how would she react if she cannot get what she wanted even after working so hard and what if the colleges do not consider her health issues when considering her application? Too many questions and very few answers in my head....

Have any of you or your friends gone through such a situation and if so, how have you solved it? I would really appreciate your inputs/advice for my daughter.

Yours sincerely
A worried Mom
Post edited by DIBM96 on

Replies to: How do colleges handle applications of children with health issues

  • SteveMASteveMA Registered User Posts: 6,079 Senior Member
    First, NYU is HUGELY expensive so run the net price calculator and see how it matches with your ability to pay for college. If it doesn't match, you need to nip that in the bud NOW. Sorry for you DD if that is the case.

    As for the application process, generally you can ask the guidance counselor to put something in her report about the illness and the impact on her education. Keep in mind, however, that for an ongoing illness that might impact her during college, they will consider that in the application process as well. It's time to find some safety schools she loves too. Have you visited schools yet?
  • DIBM96DIBM96 Registered User Posts: 150 Junior Member
    Thank you for such a prompt response.

    I totally agree with you -- as we live in CA and so I would rather have her attend a school in Cali and I have been telling her to consider NYU for her grad education.

    I don't quite understand what you meant by "safety" schools -- can you please elaborate ? She is ofcourse not considering to be in an Ivy League school but at the same time, does not want to go to Community colleges and take the route of an Associate degree to a B.S that some kids do.
    If you think there are such schools, please let me know and we can start looking into those.

    Appreciate your feedback!
  • SteveMASteveMA Registered User Posts: 6,079 Senior Member
    A safety school is one with a pretty high acceptance rate that is also financially affordable for your family so basically one she has close to 100% shot of getting accepted and where if she attends that school you can afford to pay for her schooling. NYU has a 30% acceptance rate with an average ACT score of 29-32 so, if your DD's scores fall below that, that acceptance rate decreases. From all accounts UCLA has a single digit acceptance rate for in state students right now and is very difficult to get into unless you are a top student, at least according to families on this board. Basically with those 2 choices her back up plan would be to attend a community college and hope she can get in somewhere after she is done there. She needs to find other schools where she has a good shot of getting in that match her GPA and test scores, probably 2 schools like this at least.

    Then on the financial side, you need to figure out how much you can pay for college. If you got to the federal financial aid site and run their finacial aid forecaster, it will tell you what your expected family contribution is. You will need your tax returns from last year to get a fairly accurate number. Once you have that number, go to the UCLA and NYU websites and run their net price calculator so see how much those schools will cost you. Can you afford that? If not, find some that you can.
  • DIBM96DIBM96 Registered User Posts: 150 Junior Member
    Great...thanks for the explanation.

    Btw, do you think it is OK (I mean, not too early?) for her to go and visit schools right now? And if we can do visit, how do you think we should approach? Should she write to the College Admissions office or anybody in particular to see if they will entertain us?

    She has so far a GPA of 3.6, her first SAT score is 1900 (and this was taken this year right after her spinal cord surgery -- she has had a total of 5 spinal surgeries) and she is planning to retake her SAT in Jan 2013.

    Sorry for too many questions -- but she being our first child, we are kind of clueless of the processes for Undergrad education here. I have only attended Graduate school here and I think it is easier to get into a Grad school than an UnderGrad school here :)

    Best regards!
  • SteveMASteveMA Registered User Posts: 6,079 Senior Member
    We started visiting out of state schools the summer between sophomore and junior year. It is a great time to start visiting schools. Most colleges are having various group campus visit days, etc. now. If you have the time, go for it. The biggest thing you want to figure out is what kind of schools she wants. I know she said UCLA and NYU but has she been to either campus, does she like the size, the location, etc. Once you figure that out, it's easier to narrow this down. I would also suggest going over to the main Parent's board--link on the left of your screen-and hop on the parents of the high school class of 2014 as they are going through the same issues you are for finding schools, etc. Hang out here long enough and you will be a pro at this in no time.
  • DeskPotatoDeskPotato Registered User Posts: 1,329 Senior Member
    Those are pretty respectable grades and scores even for kids without physical challenges. You'll see many participants on this message board who have much higher GPAs and test scores, but don't let that throw you.

    Why not begin by using one of the many search programs (I think there's one on this site and CollegeBoard may have one) that lets you plug in grades and scores and gives you a list of schools for which your grades and scores put you well in the running.

    I think your daughter will be viewed favorably in comparison to others with GPA 3.6 and 1900 test scores, by virtue of having accomplished these things despite great adversity.

    You may be asking whether she would be competitive with other students who present much higher grades and scores, because some consideration is given to the adversity she has overcome. That is possible as well, but somewhat less of a sure thing than the first scenario, where she is competing with others with similar credentials.

    Additionally, unless you think her health problems will be resolved by the time she gets to college, there could be some advantage to choosing a school where she is more of a "top of the heap" student. (And that is also the situation in which merit scholarships are most likely to be offered.)

    There is a lot of room between the most selective schools and the local community college, and many many schools to choose from in that space.
  • scmom12scmom12 Registered User Posts: 2,696 Senior Member
    It is definitely NOT too early to visit schools. It will help her to decide on the size and personality of a school she likes. Be sure schools have the major she wants. Look at school websites and look at midrange SATs of accepted students...you didn't say how her score is distributed but many schools look at math + critical reading and will give range for those. If she is in the upper part of range or above, then the school is likely a good match. Also, the higher her scores compared to midrange, the better chance for some merit aid. As someone suggested, run the cost estimators to see if it's affordable. She looks like a solid student who is very goal oriented and should have lots of good options, but maybe not her dream school. In her situation I would also have an honest discussion about how any ongoing medical issues bear on decision making. Does she need to have constant access to certain level of medical expertise or is she (hopefully) stable as far as needing to be close to regular doctors? College can be an added stress for even the best student and trying out closer to home may be better...and if things go well, then (as you said) go further away for grad.
  • madbeanmadbean Registered User Posts: 3,219 Senior Member
    I believe both UCLA and UC Berkeley have a special review for students with serious medical issues/family hardship, etc. You need to make sure she writes the additional essay to explain "other circumstances" and is quite honest about her overcoming her medical struggles. In some cases, they will look at students who are not in their typical range of gpas/scores with such disadvantages. In those cases, they'll contact her to answer additional questions. I'm not sure if they have any similar protocol in the other UCs, but I suggest you and your D contact the disabilities admissions office (may be another name--but if you call admissions you should be forwarded) at both universities and ask more detailed questions.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered User Posts: 15,342 Senior Member
    My first two kids applied to 4 and 5 colleges respectively. My third has dyslexia and while he has worked extremely hard there are limitations to how he has had to arrange his schedules and his standardized tests composites have taken a hit because of the low reading scores. His GC hopefully wrote about his determination and will to succeed and my son put together a personal statement that went with his college applications in order for the colleges to put him in context. The jist being that what most kids with his GPA and course load can read in a couple hours takes my son hours and hours but he simply does it because that is who he is. Our philosophy was to cast a wider net with him. He applied to colleges where his standardized reading scores were slightly below the norm but everything else fell in line (math, GPA etc.), he applied to colleges where his standardized score composite fell within the norm and he applied to a couple colleges where he is assured an acceptance. That approach is often suggested for ALL students, but I think it's especially important for students that have specific disabilities that can easily be overcome with compensating tactics, like allowing enough study hours, or adjusting a course schedule to fit etc.

    Finally you just have to believe that college admissions officers WANT kids that will succeed at their colleges and an acceptance or a rejection in some small part is meant to be. So let her reach, but also make sure she has variety in the applications that she would be willing to attend.

    It sounds like another factor you will want to consider as you research colleges is access to medical care which is not something my third had to think about.
  • SteveMASteveMA Registered User Posts: 6,079 Senior Member
    momofthreeboys--I agree-our DD has chronic medical issues and I most certainly looked at medical care near the schools she was considering, especially if they had in-network doctors there !! The school she picked is close enough to the U of Chicago so I am good with that :D.
  • KKmamaKKmama Registered User Posts: 2,754 Senior Member
    Have her consider some private schools that may provide merit scholarships. The school my daughter attends (east coast, so not great for you) has a generous scholarship for students who are big on volunteer hours. They do volunteer projects while in school as part of the scholarship requirement. Something like that would work well for your kid, since she wants to volunteer anyway.
  • siliconvalleymomsiliconvalleymom Registered User Posts: 4,461 Senior Member
    I agree with the posters above who point out that appropriate nearby medical care must be a factor in her search. That's a plus for UCLA, which has a terrific hospital right on campus. Rice and Duke both stand out in my mind for having fantastic medical facilities adjacent to campus.
    You may also find it helpful to ask her specialist for thoughts on medical care for her condition, and for any recommendations about what she will need to be a successful student, like special housing or accommodations.
    For a great overall look at the American admissions process, you may want to try a book like "Admission Matters" by Sally Springer and Jon Reider. The book covers all of the basics of the college search and selection process.
  • Mom2jlMom2jl Registered User Posts: 481 Member
    Since you're in CA, I would highly recommend visiting some of the other UC campuses, especially those that may be easier to get into than UCLA. I know that both UC Irvine and UC Davis have good medical centers, as does UCSD, although I've heard it's as hard to get into as UCLA.
  • NWMom2NWMom2 Registered User Posts: 171 Junior Member
    Great healthcare resources adjacent to Case Western Reserve--University Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic....
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 24,569 Senior Member
    Your safeties don't have to be comm colleges- there are other choices. The point is to find schools where she falls in the top range of stats for the current crop of freshmen. And, do look at the environment. Eg, would she be comfortable with the walk (and hill) beween the dorms and UCLA class buildings? I'd also suggest considering the smaller class sizes at most LACs (not counting some freshman courses,) so she has some of that flexibility. All colleges should have disabilty advocates, you can check each target college's blurb about that.

    About reviewing her gpa in light of her issues- colleges need to know their kids can manage the level of work there, despite whatever range of challenges kids may face. Best bet is to find her a great match school, not hope for one where she might find herself in a pressure wringer. Best of luck.
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