College Bound: 13 Ways to Prepare

By Eve Kessler, Esq.

2.10.1 cropped_TS_176760952For high school students on their way to college, there’s no time like the present to brush up on the independent learning skills they’ll need to be successful at the next level. Below are some helpful hints and tips for how to do that.

1. Talk It Out

Discuss with the special education staff at your school what you need to do to prepare for college, and explore with them the academic and social differences between high school and college.

2. Cut the Cord

Improve your independent study skills by taking on progressively more difficult tasks without the help of teachers or parents. For example, when assigned long-term academic projects, independently structure your learning.

3. Test Drive the Experience

Take a community college class to build your awareness of post-secondary expectations and help determine the types of resources and accommodations you’ll require to be successful.

4. Think Bigger

Take advantage of job-shadowing programs, high school internships, and summer job opportunities to explore vocational possibilities and expand your interests, aspirations, and skills.

5. Build Skills

Utilize all resources at your school (including special ed resources) to bring your reading and writing skills up to college-qualifying levels.

6. Speak For Yourself

Attend your own IEP or Section 504 meetings.

7. Get Your Timing Down

Discuss your evaluations or assessments with your school psychologist, counselor, special education teacher, mentor, and parents. Make sure your assessment will be less than three years old when you are applying to colleges.

8. Know Yourself

Do some self-assessment. Understand your own cognitive and social strengths and vulnerabilities: how you learn best and what you do to compensate and strategize; what supports you need to socialize appropriately, and what accommodations you need to be a successful learner and participant in college life. For example, do you need to read material multiple times for reinforcement? Do you study better in a group or alone? Can you live in a dorm with a roommate? Do you need a small or large school environment? Are you ready to be away from home or do you initially need the support of family and friends locally?

9. Practice, Practice, Practice

Take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Testing Program (ACT). If you do not test well, enroll in a preparation course and take practice tests repeatedly.

10. Grow Up

Improve your independent living skills by managing your own time, getting yourself out of bed, and handling your medications and psychological care when applicable. Be aware of how your medication affects you and the differences in your functioning as a result of taking it.

11. Start the Search

Locate colleges that have Disability Resource Centers and programs for students with disabilities. Review their course catalogues, visit them when school is in session, spend the night and audit classes. Meet with the Resource Center staff and students who take advantage of the services offered.

12. Show Up

Ask questions during campus visits. Make sure support personnel clarify the program philosophy, availability of tutorial support, procedures for requirement waivers and class substitutions, course load and graduation time, academic adjustments and accommodations, campus climate, and awareness of needs and support for students with LD.

13. Put It On Paper

Write a well-developed essay distinguishing yourself from others. Discuss the support you have required and how you have made the most of it. Confront concerns in your background and how you’ve met challenges; what you have learned from your struggle and why you will be successful in college. Above all, discuss your strengths and how you shine.

This article is based on information presented by Daria Rockholz, Ph.D., an educational consultant in Ridgefield, CT. Eve Kessler, Esq., a criminal appellate attorney with The Legal Aid Society, NYC, is co-founder and President of SPED*NET, Special Education Network of Wilton, Ltd.,, and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids.

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