Will requesting accommodations reflect poorly on us?

Parents often ask me questions about how they can best support their child with what they’re learning. Many feel they aren’t doing enough, or aren’t doing the right thing, to help their child succeed. I see a lot of these questions more than once, so I’ve decided to collect them and post them here for other parents to read, in case that advice is helpful.

All my advice is based on my own experience from almost 10 years of working with students with learning differences, and on my M.Ed. training at Villanova University.

Hi Jonah,

[My daughter’s] practice this week went much better! The extra time on the math really seemed to help. She said she was less anxious and was able to answer most of the questions.

Does this mean we should ask her counselor about testing accommodations? I know you said at our first meeting that we should think about it, but we’ve been very busy and I haven’t had the chance to call. I’m thinking we’ll speak to [my daughter] about it and see if she’s comfortable. My concern is if we ask about accommodations and she doesn’t receive them–will that reflect poorly on her application?

Amelia L.

Hi Amelia,

Great questions. First, I would urge you to talk to the school counselor about having [your daughter] assessed and then pursuing accommodations right away. It’s only supposed to take six weeks, but this year it’s been taking longer, so the sooner, the better. Because [your daughter] will need assessment first, in her case it will take even longer to be approved, so start that process as soon as you can.

The tougher question is your second one, about if asking for accommodations will reflect poorly on her application. The short answer is, “No, it won’t”. Here’s the longer answer:

If you’re worried about any note about accommodations making colleges think twice about accepting her, definitely don’t worry about that–they won’t see her accommodations information and they won’t discriminate (or rather, it’s illegal to discriminate) based on that. That information won’t be shared with the school, and even if it was, it won’t reflect poorly on her.

It’s tougher to address what sounds like is your real concern: will the College Board treat her differently if she applies for accommodations and is denied them? This is hard to answer, since we don’t have any concrete data on this. Of course, the test itself is scored by a machine, so it’s not like her actual test scores would be affected if the College Board decided to hassle her. But while I’ve seen the College Board lose test scores and send them to the wrong schools (rare, but it does happen), it’s never correlated with student accommodations, as far as I’m aware.

I’ve also seen several students apply for accommodations, be denied them, and then apply again for the next test cycle with better information about their needs and receive accommodations then. So anecdotally, I’ve seen myself that there isn’t a disadvantage for students who apply more than once.

The most important thing I can say here, though, is that I don’t think it matters: the fact is that students who have more time on the test score higher than they did when they didn’t have the extra time. So the extra time accommodation, especially for a student like [your daughter] and what I suspect is a mild processing disorder, could be a game-changer. Even on the sections where she is finishing under time (the grammar in particular), I expect we’ll see a score increase with the extra time, since she’ll have time to rest and refresh in between passages.

I want to emphasize here that the next step is professional assessment, not an application for accommodations, since you’ll need the proper paperwork to apply. Your school counselor likely has some recommendations on that front, but I’m happy to point you in the right direction, too. Let me know how I can help with this step of the process and I’ll do my best to guide you through it.


The effect of extra time on a timed test can’t be overstated. I’ve seen it take a student from a 13 on the ACT Science section to a 34. Not only do they have more time to answer questions, but the psychological effect is huge–there’s way less pressure to perform, so they can actually think about what they’re reading and engage with the material. I’ll always encourage students to pursue extra time on the test, especially the ACT, if they have the documentation for it.

I think a lot of students are embarrassed to be granted accommodations on the test. I always tell them: these standardized tests are not designed to be a fair and accurate measurement of your ability. You deserve this extra time to show them what you can do on their test. Use it!