The PAL Experience

The internationally recognized Program for Advancement of Learning (PAL) provides academically focused assistance to bright, college-able students with specific language-based learning disabilities, executive function disorders, and/or AD/HD. PAL has been widely recognized as the country's first college program of its kind and for its leadership role over the years. Since its inception, PAL has focused on providing comprehensive, strength-based support to college students with language-based learning disabilities in a proactive environment.

Students in PAL are fully mainstreamed and constitute about 20% of each entering class. Students work in a combination of individual and/or small, credit-bearing classes with a PAL faculty member developing strategies in areas such as reading comprehension, written language, speaking, listening, organization, and time management. These skills are continually related to the students' individual profiles of learning.

Some first-year PAL students choose to participate in one of Curry's many First Year Inquiry groups (FYIG), and those students form a small learning community where their PAL class is linked to a concept area of their choice, for example, "Living and Learning with Technology" which is also linked to a "Navigating Your Digital World" and a "First Year Seminar" class. In all their PAL classes, students develop self-advocacy skills, as they are encouraged to become their own advocate armed with an understanding of their learning strengths and challenges.

PAL students are first and foremost Curry College students. The program seeks bright, college-able students who have a primary diagnosis of a language-based learning disability, executive function weakness, and/or AD/HD, and who have average to superior intellectual ability. Specifically, PAL is designed to support students who:

  • Demonstrate solidly average to superior intelligence as measured by a comprehensive cognitive assessment (WAIS, WISC or Woodcock Johnson). We are best able to support students who can comprehend the concepts presented in their classes, but need assistance in demonstrating that understanding.
  • Desire both a challenging academic curriculum and individualized academic support within a 4-year liberal arts setting.
  • Seek to understand the nature of their own learning process and to acquire skills and strategies for college success. Many PAL graduates attribute their later success in graduate school or in their careers to the insights and skills they acquired as PAL students.
  • Possess a primary diagnosis of a language-based learning disability and/or AD/HD. The diagnostic testing that is submitted with the application serves as a springboard for discussion about how each student learns. PAL professors use the student's testing information to help the individual student better understand their personal learning strengths in order to use those talents to develop strategies for success.
  • Desire a proactive, mentoring relationship with a learning specialist. The PAL professor and student work in partnership, identifying ways to anticipate problems before they arise and strategizing ways to address new issues as they emerge.
  • Seek other bright, college-able peers who have had similar experiences.
  • Understand academic frustration from past experiences, but have the motivation to achieve success with support.

Please note that PAL is NOT designed for students whose overall cognitive ability is in the low average range or below, who demonstrate a significant need for social skills support or remediation, or who have a primary diagnosis of a disability other than a language-based learning disability and/or AD/HD. Such applicants, if otherwise qualified for admission to Curry, are eligible for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) through Curry's Disabilities Office.

Helpful Information

  • PAL students comprise approximately 20% of the entering class; they are fully integrated on campus, often enrolled in the Honors Program, and are often leaders in student government, athletics, the arts, and other aspects of campus life.
  • Curry offers Merit Scholarships, Leadership Scholarships, and PAL Merit Awards based on motivation, academic promise and potential to contribute to Curry.
  • Graduates from PAL have moved on to a wide range of careers and graduate opportunities, including law school and doctoral programs.
  • SAT's are NOT required of applicants to PAL. See PAL Admissions for specific application requirements.
  • Once all required application materials have been received in PAL, you should hear from us in about 3 to 4 weeks about your PAL admission status. You can contact us at with questions.


PAL Admissions Coordinator - Dr. Nancy Winbury - - 617.333.2314

Student & Parent Concerns Coordinator - Dr. Janis Peters - - 617.333.2035

PAL Director -  Dr. Laura Vanderberg - - 617.333.2270

PAL Main Desk - or 617-333-2250

Apply to PAL
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Apply today to be a part of a structured support program providing assistance to bright, college-able students with specific learning disabilities and/or AD/HD.

Video: The PAL Program

Students, alumni and faculty share success stories and discuss the advantages of the PAL program at Curry College.


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