The STEPP Program is a comprehensive support program that serves college students with documented learning disabilities (LD). The program offers academic, social, and life-skills support to a select number of motivated and committed students who show the potential to succeed in college. The STEPP Program provides intensive supports well beyond the services legally required at the university level.
Naturally, anyone can submit an application. However, applicants who do not meet the criteria below are not eligible for consideration.
Any student who meets these criteria is eligible to apply for the STEPP Program. However, many factors are considered in the review process, and submitting an application does not guarantee that a student will be accepted. Please note that the STEPP Program does not have an open-door admissions policy.
It depends. The STEPP Program serves only students with documented learning disabilities who are eligible for services under the category of Specific Learning Disability (LD) through ECU’s Department of Disability Support Services. ADHD does not fall under this category based on the official criteria we use at the STEPP Program. Therefore, a student whose only diagnosis is ADHD will not be eligible to apply to the program. However, please keep in mind that some students may be diagnosed with ADHD in addition to a specific learning disability. In such a case, the student would most likely be eligible to apply to the STEPP Program.
In most cases, a student who is eligible for the STEPP Program will have a diagnosis that uses one of the following terms: Reading Disorder, Dyslexia, Disorder of Written Expression, Dysgraphia, Math Disorder, or Dyscalculia. Some students with a diagnosis of Auditory/Visual Processing Disorder or Nonverbal Learning Disability are also eligible. However, please note that having one of the diagnoses listed here does not automatically guarantee that a student will be eligible for the STEPP Program. Furthermore, even students with clear-cut diagnoses of LD may or may not be a good fit with the STEPP Program's supports. If you are uncertain whether you are eligible for the STEPP Program, please contact us for further information. We will be happy to review a student's evaluation to make an eligibility determination at any time - even before s/he formally applies to the program.
*We most often get this question in regard to students with ADHD. Other disorders that we are commonly asked about include Autism, Asperger's syndrome, Anxiety Disorders, Deafness/Hearing Impairment, Cerebral Palsy, and various medical diagnoses. Please note that the same answer applies to all disorders/diagnoses other than Specific Learning Disability.
Yes, the STEPP Program welcomes applications from out-of-state students. We do not currently have any restrictions on our ratio of in-state to out-of-state students, so our admission decisions are made on the basis of a student's fit with the program, not their residency.
Thus far, approximately 22% of our accepted students have hailed from out-of-state. Students from Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia have enrolled in the program.
The STEPP Program does not offer spring semester admission. All students who are accepted to the program must enter ECU in the fall semester. This schedule enables us to provide a full year of transition support following a student's acceptance. In addition, it ensures that all students in the STEPP Program enter ECU along with a full cohort of other first-year students who will be enrolled in several classes together.
Students must apply to the STEPP Program and participate in the program's transition supports before entering ECU. If you are a student with a learning disability who is currently attending ECU and needs additional support, we recommend contacting the ECU Department for Disability Support Services for guidance.
The main criteria that the STEPP Program considers as part of the application process include: high school courses and grades, psychological/psychoeducational evaluation, IEP (or 504 Plan), SAT or ACT scores, personal essay, teacher recommendations, and personal interview. We consider each application individually and consider the overall strength of each student’s application within the context of the program’s supports and the demands of a university education. Because some of our students are admitted on a special talents waiver, we do have a bit of flexibility with ECU’s admissions criteria. However, to be a strong candidate, a student will need to meet most of ECU’s traditional criteria.
The STEPP Program accepts 10 new students per year. We generally receive significantly more applications than the number of spaces we have available. The STEPP Program Advisory Board considers each application on a case-by-case basis and looks at a number of factors beyond the criteria used in traditional college admissions. Although the STEPP Program does accept some students who are not traditionally eligible for admission to East Carolina University, a student’s grades, SAT or ACT scores, and high school curriculum do still carry weight in our deliberations. Students who are invited to participate in the program are typically dedicated and motivated individuals who come fairly close to meeting ECU’s admissions criteria but fall a bit short in one or two areas.
Once we receive all of a student’s application materials, s/he is added to our list of applicants. After the application deadline has passed, our Advisory Board completes an initial screening of each student, taking into account all of the application materials. Based on that information, we decide which students will move on to the second phase of the application process, which is an on-campus personal interview. After the on-campus interviews are completed, the Advisory Board meets to conduct an in-depth review of the candidates. After this meeting, students may be asked to submit additional information (via mail, email, or phone conversation) or to participate in a second interview. Then, final decisions are made about which students will be invited to participate in the program. Students who are invited will be notified by mail and will be given a deadline to decide whether they want to commit to participating in the STEPP Program. Once a student has committed to participate, s/he must then submit an official ECU application through the Admissions Office. This step must be completed before a student can officially be accepted to ECU. The STEPP Program also establishes a waiting list of students who are a good match for the program but who are not invited to participate. If an invited student does not commit to participate, a student on the waiting list can then be invited to take his/her place.
The application deadline for students planning to attend college directly after high school is May 15th of the student’s junior year of high school. We recommend that students submit all of their application materials during March or early April of their junior year of high school. Following this timeline ensures that the student’s records are as up-to-date as possible and allows enough time to submit any additional materials we may request before the May 15th deadline.
Generally, students will need to submit a psychological/psychoeducational evaluation from within the past three years. Click here for a detailed description of the criteria for an acceptable evaluation (from ECU's Department for Disability Support Services).
Students whose psychological/psychoeducational evaluations are more than three years old are advised to send the most recent documentation available. The STEPP Program will review the evaluation that is sent; however, students should be aware that final admission decisions generally cannot be made without a current evaluation. If your evaluation is more than three years old, we recommend that you speak with your case manager or school psychologist as soon as possible regarding your options for reevaluation. Please contact the STEPP Program if you have any questions about your evaluation.
Once you have submitted an application, you can expect to hear back from us at key stages of the admissions process, such as when your application is complete and after we decide which students to invite for on-campus interviews. If we have received a partial application, we will attempt to notify you about any missing pieces. However, we can only do this if we have received your completed, legible Student Information Form with your contact information and notification preferences.
Please note that the responsibility to check on application status lies with the student. Contact us if you have not received acknowledgement of your application within approximately three weeks after submitting a completed application packet. Please be aware that we are a small office and receive a large volume of mail, email, and calls during application season; your patience is appreciated as we work to process each application and notify students of their application status.
We always make a good-faith effort to contact students, but we cannot be responsible if a student does not take the initiative to check on his/her application status in a timely manner. To minimize this concern, please ensure that both your postal address and email address are clearly written on your application. In addition, ensure that your email account will accept emails with PDF attachments from @ecu.edu email addresses and add the STEPP Program staff's email addresses to your "safe senders" list. Although we directly contact anyone whose email bounces back to us, emails routed to a junk/spam folder generally do not result in a bounceback or notification on our end.
Students who are not invited to participate in the STEPP Program have many other options available to them.
In the process of making admissions decisions, the STEPP Program sometimes establishes a list of students who are a good match for the program but are not invited to participate. Our "waitlist" is actually more of a "wait pool" because we generally do not create a numbered list. If a vacancy arises in the upcoming cohort, the STEPP Program rereviews the applications of all students on the waitlist. In addition, the committee also reviews any new applications that were received after the initial round of admissions decisions were made. Students being reconsidered may be asked to submit additional or updated information or even to participate in a second interview before the committee makes a final decision.
Please note that the STEPP Program waitlist generally expires on May 1st of the student's intended year of entry to ECU. After that date, it is usually not possible for us to add students to a cohort. If you are wait-listed and have not received further notifications from us by May 1st, you can assume either that no vacancies arose in the cohort you applied to, or that you were not selected for any vacancies that did arise. You are welcome to reapply for the following year's cohort by the May 15th deadline; if you choose to reapply, please contact us to find out which of your old application materials will roll over to your new application and which will need to be resubmitted.
Students enrolled in the STEPP Program pay ECU tuition and required fees, including fees for housing and meal plans, but there is no additional cost to participate in the STEPP Program. The program is endowment-supported and funded through private donations in addition to some temporary grant support. We continue to work to build our endowment in an effort to fund all our operating expenses in the long term. If you are interested in financially supporting the STEPP Program, please visit our endowment page to learn more.
Not at the moment, although we hope to offer scholarships in the future. STEPP Program students can apply for other scholarships through the Financial Aid Office in the same way as students who are not in the STEPP Program.
STEPP Program students are typical ECU students in every way. We rarely do anything to single out our students as different (no neon t-shirts saying “I’m in the STEPP Program!”), so unless a student discloses this information, a student's peers are unlikely to know. However, certain ECU employees who interact with the STEPP Program will be aware of which students are in our program and the fact that these students have documented learning disabilities.
Students in the STEPP Program vary significantly in how comfortable they feel discussing their learning disabilities with others. Although many students in the program are quite open and readily self-identify to peers, some others prefer only to share this information as necessary. However, in order to be successful within the STEPP Program, a student must be willing and able to talk openly about his/her learning challenges with the faculty, staff, and student employees who support his/her academic success, as well as with the other students in the STEPP Program. Students who are not willing to acknowledge their need for additional support and/or take the initiative to fully utilize the program's resources are highly unlikely to experience success within this program.
We strongly encourage our students to participate in the full college experience, including extracurricular activities. East Carolina University has over 300 campus organizations, so there truly is something for everyone. However, we also emphasize to our students that they should not over-commit themselves, especially during their first year. We encourage students to start out slowly by getting involved in a couple of low-key activities their first year. We currently have a policy requiring that students take two full semesters to settle in and adjust before committing to any time-consuming extracurricular activities (e.g., Greek Life, employment over 20 hours/week, leadership positions, club sports, etc.). In addition, STEPP Program students cannot participate in official ECU athletics. This policy exists due to a time conflict between athletic requirements and STEPP Program commitments as well as duplication of services between these two organizations. However, participation in intramural and club sports is allowed.
Probably not, but it is possible. The way the STEPP Program is designed, it takes most students five years to graduate. This is because our students start out taking only the minimum course load of 12 semester hours and take additional STEPP Program courses during their first few semesters. After freshman year, students who have experienced academic success may start taking a heavier load of courses if they choose. Please keep in mind that although some students will be able to successfully handle a heavier course load, others may need to continue taking the minimum load in order to keep their grades up. Students who would like to earn additional credits may also take summer classes. The STEPP Program does offer academic support during the summer sessions; however, participation in summer school is not required.
No. Students who enroll in the STEPP Program commit to participating in the program for the duration of their undergraduate education at ECU. As students progress through their college years, the requirements become more individualized. In addition, for most students, the STEPP Program's supports are most intense during the first three semesters on campus, after which a natural fading of supports may gradually occur. However, several services, supports, and requirements do continue through graduation. We emphasize to our students that their goal should not necessarily be to use fewer supports, but rather to succeed in college, regardless of the extent of support services. Students who are unwilling to take the initiative to fully utilize the program's resources and supports are highly unlikely to experience success within the STEPP Program.
No. All students in the STEPP Program must attend both an orientation session and Boot Camp. Different information will be provided in Boot Camp than is given during Orientation, so neither one can substitute for the other. Students in the STEPP Program will attend exactly the same Orientation events as students who are not in the STEPP Program, with only one exception. Because our students are registered for fall classes during the spring and advised by a staff member within our program, they come to the STEPP Program office to discuss their fall schedules instead of attending general registration.
No. Boot Camp is mandatory for all first-year students in the STEPP Program. Students must plan to attend all five days of Boot Camp in their entirety. Please also note that each student is required to have a parent or guardian attend the first two days of Boot Camp.
All first-year students in the STEPP Program are required to live in a designated residence hall. Since 2011, the assigned dorm for the STEPP Program has been Fletcher Hall in the West neighborhood; however, that may change for future cohorts. After the first year, students may choose to move off campus if they prefer. We recommend that students live on campus during both their first and second years at ECU.
As the STEPP Program grows, we use the feedback and data that we gather from each cohort to improve the program. Therefore, the services, supports, and requirements do sometimes change from year to year. If you have heard different information from a student who is currently in the program, please keep in mind that the requirements that apply to his/her cohort may differ from the requirements that apply to the cohort for which you are applying. Feel free to contact one of our staff members anytime to get the most updated information.
Come visit us! We offer a number of group information sessions each semester. At these events, prospective students and families can learn about the STEPP Program in more detail, tour our office, and meet some of our staff and students. The details and registration for these information sessions can be found here.
We also offer a "Virtual Open House" option for anyone who can't physically come to campus. Details about and dates of these webinars can also be found at the link provided above.
Please be aware that due to the high demand for informational meetings and our small staff, we are no longer able to offer one-on-one informational meetings. Instead, we encourage all interested students and families to register for one of our face-to-face or virtual information sessions. In the meantime, you can also contact us anytime for more information!
The STEPP Program hosts information sessions for prospective students and families throughout the year. Check our News & Events page for the dates of these sessions and the link to register!
Admission decisions for the 2017 cohort of the STEPP Program have been made, and decision letters were mailed out to all interviewees during mid-August.
Applications for the 2018 cohort will be posted on our website by the end of January 2017. The application deadline for this cohort is May 15, 2017.
The Fall 2015 STEPP newsletter is now available.