As students are winding down their high school years and preparing to transition to college, it may be a good time to reinforce the importance of self-advocacy for students moving on to college. A student being able to know when they are experiencing a challenge academically, socially, etc, and taking the steps to seek help is critical to success in college. Many students while in high school count on their parents and teachers to move them through the self-advocacy process. Now is the time to start to have conversations as a family to talk about how best to build these skills before the summer ends and college begins. Here is a great article that talks more about this topic. Click on some of the links within the article for even more resources.
College readiness skills such a student's ability to be aware in a timely manner when help is needed and the ability to ask for help, are critical to the success of any college student. Similarly important are organizational skills to manage classes and homework, as well as social skills to successfully transition to dorm life and the many other highly social aspects of college life. However, not all students are ready for the same level of independence as soon as they graduate from high school.
Beginning in high school, talking about college readiness as a family can help set expectations for the student and parents, as well as provide an opportunity to allow the student to be able to set clear goals in order to build the necessary skills for a successful transition. As the high school years pass and the student makes progress, the family can work together to determine what is the best next step for a student after high school. This article does a wonderful job in speaking to readiness. Very much worth a read, and consider sharing it with family members to help get the discussion started.
When high school students begin to formulate their college list, they will consider many aspects including cost, acceptance probability, academic areas of interest, location, etc. For students with learning differences, the types of support available at each college will also be a factor. However, when developing the college list, the student with a learning difference or special need may not have a full sense of what would be best for them when the time comes to decide where to accept an offer. For example, a student with high functioning autism might need an organizational tutor several days a week while in his junior year of high school. By the end of senior year, this may be reduced substantially for some students as they continue to mature into adulthood. Therefore, accounting for maturity and emotional growth is important to add to the aspects to consider when creating a college list.
No one has a crystal ball and can know who a student will be during the spring of senior year when it comes to how they understand, manage and self-advocate around their disability. Therefore, planning for substantial growth will be important, as well as planning for the possibility of minimal social emotional growth will be part of a balanced and thoughtful college list. This can be made clear to students in an empowering way, with the plan that each college on the list can offer an opportunity for success. It will simply depend on the resources that a student will need to receive in order to best achieve success. And as success is defined by each student, the list should be a positive reflection of choices.
The process of exploring college options and understanding the steps to take to be ready for the application process is important for high school sophomores and juniors. In sophomore year it is helpful to begin to learn about the wide variety of college options available to students. At this point, it is not about making a firm college list, but it is about students educating themselves on college. Specifically, thinking about different learning environments colleges can offer, the sizes of the schools, research and internship opportunities, majors that are offered, etc. Sophomore year is a time to explore what is available to students, as well as to begin to understand the application process and what colleges are looking for. Sophomores can benefit from being reminded about how important grades are, but in a way that allows the student to have a balanced and successful high school experience.
For juniors, understanding the steps to apply to college gets more precise. NACAC has a great list of tasks for students to review and follow, starting at the beginning of the junior year. Check it out and talk with your high school counselor or other resources if you have any questions.
Self-awareness is a critical aspect in college success for any student, but particularly for students with learning differences. When a student is aware of their strengths and challenges, the student is then able to advocate for his or her needs when faced with a difficult situation. Self-awareness comes easier for some students than others, and many are self aware in certain areas but not others. For example, a student might realize that math is not a strength and is able to ask for help when needed. But the same student might not realize that they struggle with time management and not ask for help when a long term project is assigned.
The high school years are a good time for students to build their self-awareness, and then take this self-awareness and practice communicating to others as needed. This worksheet is a good start for students, but it is just a start. Building skills for independence takes practice and repetition over time, with tasks evolving as students mature. But it is a place to start.
Each family will have their own idea of how to handle college tours. Some will wait to tour colleges until a student knows if they are accepted. Other families will tour in the months or years before completing applications in order to determine the college list. There is no one way to approach this process when it comes to scheduling visits. But there are some important points to consider when on a college tour. This article talks about some things to consider when on a tour. In addition, this website has some great resources when planning your tour. Below are some additional thoughts to keep in mind. Enjoy the experience!
When a student is ready for some aspects of college but not all, how does a family decide what will the next step after high school be that will most benefit the student? This is a complex question, and the answer is different for each student. Is the student getting poor grades? If so, it is important to understand why. This article talks about this issue in more depth by asking, among other things, if the low grades and/or SAT/ACT scores are a reflection of the student’s true ability. Such an important question to explore in determining next steps after high school. Check out the article for additional insights.
Another student profile is a student with good grades and SAT/ACT scores, but difficulties with independent living skills. This is an important area to explore with a student, because attending college away from home will require independent living skills, and the ability to know when help is needed and where to get the support. Talking about these skills for college success is important to ensure the student clearly understands what will be expected from him or her when living away from home. It allows for conversations about building skills and finding a college that will provide the support needed for success.
With both of these profiles, options are available for students to attend 4 year colleges, but finding the right fit is critical. Therefore, when wondering if college is the next step for a student after high school, spend time considering what supports the student would need to be successful in a college setting. That will be the best way to start to explore options. It might turn out that college needs to wait a year while the student spends time building the necessary skills for success, but at least the student has a path to follow that fits his or her needs.
It is the time of year for families to begin to complete the documents necessary to be considered for financial aid. The FASFA, which opens on October 1st, is necessary to complete for a student to be considered for financial aid. In addition, some institutions require the FASFA to be completed for consideration of merit aid. Another form, the CSS Profile, is used by about 250 schools in their consideration of aid. Here are the links you need to know about to get started:
CSS Profile cssprofile.collegeboard.org/
Before completing these documents, please take some time to read this article about common FASFA mistakes. blog.ed.gov/2017/09/12-common-fafsa-mistakes-2/
Colleges have specific deadlines as to when they need completed financial aid documentation sent to them. Please check the website for each college you are applying to in order to ensure you are able to meet their deadline requirements. Questions? Here is a link to some answers that can hopefully get you through this important but at times confusing process. fafsa.ed.gov/help.htm
For rising juniors and seniors, it is time to be mindful of the steps you need to take to apply to college. Focusing on grades and activities that interest you, preparing for the ACT/SAT, creating a college list, etc. It is a busy time for many students, but for those students with learning difference there are additional tasks to consider. Not only is it important to think about the types of support services that will meet your needs in college, but also the steps you can take to get ready for a college environment where the landscape is different than high school for students with disabilities.
This article talks about specific steps that students and their parents can do to help prepare for the transition to college for students with disabilities. There are several great points made in the article, but the first point regarding students learning about their strengths and challenges and developing an ability to self-advocate can not be emphasized enough. When I am meeting with a student who can articulate their areas of challenge and how they are able to advocate for a learning environment that meets their needs, the student is well on their way to being able to confidently transition to a college setting. To build this ability, high school students need to spend time thinking about their educational needs, ask questions, understand the supports they are receiving, etc. in order to be able to articulate their learning needs to a professor or a disability representative. By practicing this in high school, students are giving themselves the best chance of creating a successful learning environment in college.
Many high school students with learning differences have worked hard to progress through educational demands to find themselves at a point where they can consider their options for college. Students in this situation may find that there is much to consider in beginning the process of creating a college list that will offer access to an education that will meet their needs. Parents and students alike may wonder where to start on this journey. The first place I would suggest is to educate yourself about the landscape of college, and how colleges across the country offer differing types of support models for students. Here is a link to a list of articles that can help students better understand what is entailed in transitioning to college for a student with disabilities.
In addition to the article mentioned above, read through the blog entries from this site and discover helpful articles on many topics surrounding the transition to college. By being educated about this process and what to expect, it will be much easier to know what questions to ask others, how to understand steps each unique student needs to take to make the transition, and establish realistic expectations about what is possible in the coming years for each student. Enjoy the learning process and feel free to reach out with questions!
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