Simplifying the College Search for Autistic Students

The college application process is a jumbled headache for the most organized student. From standardized tests to individual applications, resumes, recommendation letters and interviews, the application process can be overwhelming.

Autistic students have the added pressure of finding a college that will support their learning differences. Individualized support that is common in high school requires more effort in college. The good news is that many universities have made significant improvements in their programs to support learning differences in the past decade and now there is an easier way to research these individual programs.

As a member of CAN and NASPA, I often review cutting edge tools and research to help my clients through these life transitions. I found CAN’s new tool to be incredibly useful so I wanted to share it on the blog today!

Now, let’s walk through the College Autism Network’s Autism-Specific College Support Programs (ASPs)

Before we get into the details of this incredible database, let’s talk about your goals. The more specific your intentions when using the database, the better the results.

  • Where: Do you have a specific part of the country where you’d like to attend college? Talk with your family to see what makes sense for your situation. Are you hoping for a fresh start in a new state? Or is it wiser to stay closer to home and family support systems?
  • What: Now is the time for an open discussion about your post-secondary career goals. The Spectrum Transition Coaching resources page can help you on your career discovery process. Depending on your desired career, you can narrow your search to 2 year college or 4 year colleges.
  • Needs: Finally, take some time to prepare a list of your needs in college. What types of supports will be necessary for you to thrive academically and socially? Start with your current IEP and expand from there. College introduces another level of challenges as students experience more independence and free time than ever before. Given those changes, what will you need to meet your goals?

Now, let’s explore the Autism-Specific College Support Programs database.

Here’s what you’ll see on the homepage of the CAN’s Autism-Specific College Support Programs site. Based on the outcome of your conversation, select a region, type or services offered to narrow down your results. If your search doesn’t yield any results, simply remove one of the filters to see if that helps broaden the list.

CAN Database - Search autism programs at US colleges

Photo Credit: College Autism Network Autism-Specific College Support Programs (ASPs)

Next, you’ll get to the results page. At first glance, you can see the university, the name of the autism support program and the location. This can be a great way to add new universities to your interest list that may not have been on your radar yet. 

Let’s take a quick moment here to talk about college search in general. I see so many students come in with their heart set on one specific school or program. We spend a lot of time talking about their priorities and values and often come to the conclusion that MANY schools can fit those needs. I firmly believe that you can have an excellent college experience at one of many schools. The idea that there is one perfect school out there for everyone adds unnecessary pressure throughout the process, so try to let that go.

CAN Database - Results of US colleges with autism programs

Photo Credit: College Autism Network Autism-Specific College Support Programs (ASPs)

Finally, you can drill down to each university’s page to learn more about that program. I encourage you to click to the link to visit their own page for the most accurate information about details, housing, availability and pricing.

CAN Database - sample result of US college with autism program

Photo Credit: College Autism Network Autism-Specific College Support Programs (ASPs)

There you have it! CAN’s Autism-Specific College Support Programs database is a powerful tool to simplify your college search process.

CAN is one of my favorite resources to help students navigate the transition from high school to college. They are hosting a virtual summit on October 26-29, 2021. Students can join for $75 and gain access to helpful information and expert advice about autism in college. This is not a sponsored post – I am just an advocate of the CAN and the excellent work they do to support learning differences in higher education!