College Bound: Prepare Ahead

By Daria Rockholz, Ph.D., with Eve Kessler, Esq


Helping your child prepare for college involves more than just academic readiness ∙ Encouraging the independence he’ll need to succeed begins in high school by having him assume greater responsibility for all facets of his life

2.10.1-College-BoundFor 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

Set up an appointment for you and your child with the special education staff at the high school to discuss the academic and social differences your child can anticipate at the next level; explore ways she can prepare for the changes.

  1. Cut the Cord

Encourage your child to improve his 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, have him independently structure how to approach them.

  1. Test Drive the Experience

Have your child enroll in a community college class to build awareness of post-secondary expectations and help determine the types of resources and accommodations she’ll require to be successful.

  1. Think Bigger

Encourage him to take advantage of job-shadowing programs, high school internships, and summer job opportunities that allow exploration of vocational interests, talents, aspirations, and skills.

  1. Build Skills

Utilize all resources at the high school (including special ed resources) to help your child bring up her reading and writing skills to college levels.

  1. Speak Up

Make sure your child attends his own IEP or Section 504 meetings. Encourage him to participate fully in the discussions, which will help him find his voice for when he must advocate for himself at college.

  1. Get the Timing Down

Make sure your child has an assessment within three years of applying to colleges. Include her in the discussion of those results with the school psychologist, counselor, and special education teacher.

  1. Know Thyself

Have your child do some self-assessment. Help him understand his cognitive and social strengths and vulnerabilities; how he learns best and what he does to compensate and strategize; what supports does he need to socialize appropriately; and what accommodations will he need to be a successful learner and participant in college life. For example, does he need to read material multiple times to fully understand it? Does he study better in a group or alone? Can he live in a dorm with a roommate? Does he need a small or large school environment? Is he ready to be away from home or does he initially need the support of family and friends locally?

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice

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

  1. Grow Up

Encourage independent living skills by having him manage his own time, getting himself out of bed, and handling his medications and psychological care when applicable. Help raise his awareness of how medication affects him and the differences in his functioning as a result of taking it.

  1. Start the Search

Work with your child to locate colleges that have Disability Resource Centers and programs for students with disabilities. Have her review their course catalogues, arrange a visit when school is in session, spend the night and audit classes. Make sure she meets with the Resource Center staff and some students who use the services offered.

  1. Show Up

Help your child prepare questions to ask during campus visits. Make sure he leaves with a clear understanding of 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.

  1. 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 of SPED*NET, Special Education Network of Wilton (CT) and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids.

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