GOOD college planning for students with learning challenges is the same as for anyone else, just a bit more complicated. With proper preparation, students can arrive at the right college with the skills they need to be successful. We guide our students through this process paying particular attention to their learning strengths and needs.
College planning begins by understanding the way colleges evaluate students. Two key factors for admission are the student’s transcript and standardized test scores. Transcripts help admissions officers determine the student’s level of challenge and performance. We are frequently asked how many Advanced Placement courses are enough. The answer ranges from none to many—it depends on the school and the student.
Admissions officers like to see an increase in the level of challenge for students, so moving from on-level to honors to AP classes can demonstrate a student’s growth. For other students, the more advanced classes the better, as long as the individual is comfortable and able to participate in extracurricular and family activities. If a student has struggled early in high school, but then makes steady improvement, many colleges will consider an upward trend in grades in a positive light.
For standardized testing such as the ACT or SAT, some students need accommodations such as extended time, a computer, or a reader. In order to qualify for these accommodations, students must be using them for school work and have up-to-date documentation such as a psycho-educational evaluation to verify their educational needs. We work with our students to make sure that they are eligible for accommodations and registered in time for the tests.
Should students take the ACT or the SAT? We recommend that students try practice versions of each and determine which is most comfortable and successful. Also, one-on-one tutoring rather than classes can be more effective for students with learning differences as they will get far more out of each individually tailored session.
Extracurricular activities, work, and community service are other areas where students can shine. Students shouldn’t add activities just to impress the evaluator; rather, they can use these opportunities to explore areas of interest and personal strengths. Students can try new activities, develop leadership skills, and gain authentic experiences and insights to share in the college essay.