The literature is conflicted around the subject of the emotional abilities of individuals with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLDs): While many claim cognitive challenges are associated with emotional difficulties, some suggest emotional and interpersonal abilities are not compromised in such disorders and may help individuals compensate and cope effectively with the challenges they meet in learning environments. Two studies explored differences in emotional intelligence (EI) between young adults with and without SLD. Two samples (matched on gender, approximate age, and program of study; n = 100, and unmatched; n = 584) of college students took self-report and performance-based tests of EI (Ability-EI) as well as a measure of self-esteem and demographics associated with college performance (e.g.: SAT scores, gender, etc.). The results showed that while SAT scores and ability emotional intelligence (Ability-EI) were associated with college GPA, Ability-EI did not differ between the two groups, while self-report measures of EI and self-esteem did show differences, with the group with learning disabilities ranking lower. The effects remained stable when we controlled for demographics and potential intervening factors. The results suggest that EI may play a protective role in the association between background variables and college attainment in students with SLD. The results may provide a basis for interventions to empower students with SLD in academia.