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Helping LD Students Deal with the Social & Emotional Side of Applying to Colleges

DysgraphiaThe social/emotional component of learning disabled students when applying to colleges is often fraught with fear and apprehension beyond what their non-learning disabled peers experience. After all, the application process demands solid skills in executive functioning, organization, time management, processing speed, reading comprehension skills, written language skills, working memory and mature social judgment.

LD candidates often worry that they are unable to meet expectations and feel overwhelmed when and moving through the various stages of the college application process.

There are, however, useful tips and advice that we as educational consultants can give to our clients and their parents. By walking them through the process and smashing the tasks into manageable steps we can make possible a successful entry into college. Below are ten helpful ways in which educational consultants and parents can assist their LD clients and their children in the college application process.

  1. Many parents are familiar with only the cocktail circuit schools and do not understand that these schools may not be appropriate choices for their children. They need to distinguish between what makes a good college and what makes a college a good match for the LD candidate. Parents must be reminded that because a school is unfamiliar, it doesn’t mean it is not a good choice for their child.
  2. The SAT’s are process-oriented tests. The ACT’-s are product-oriented tests. If your child understands a specific subject matter, then the ACT’-s is the one to choose. However, both the SAT’-s and the ACT’-s as standardized tests, pose difficulty for the learning disabled students. As parents, it is important to tell your child that SAT’-s and ACT’-s should not and cannot define one’s self worth. We need to demystify these standardized tests and help LD candidates understand that these tests do not demonstrate their academic potential.
  3. Teach your LD child that their SAT and ACT performances are not accurate predictors of success. Rather success in life can often be measured by:
    • Resilience
    • Optimism
    • Enthusiasm
    • Motivation
    • Time management skills
    • Perseverance
    • Connection to community, friends and family
    • Appreciation of life and the ability to enjoy the moment
  4. Tell your child to be honest about who he or she is. The right college match cannot be found if there is a shroud of pretention. Parents must stress the importance of helping their children maintain their voice throughout the application process. Teach them never to speak ill of themselves as everyone has strengths and vulnerabilities, and they need not to draw attention to their vulnerabilities.
  5. Extracurricular activities may be limited for LD candidates compared with their peers due to the need for academic tutoring after school in more than one subject as well as homework taking longer to complete. This may be an opportunity to emphasize character strengths that allow LD students to distinguish themselves as strong student body members citing their determination to persevere and diligence as key qualities to possess as individuals.
  6. LD students frequently have a difficult time self-advocating. As educational consultants, we encourage these candidates to feel pro-active and self-sufficient. Helping them to develop interview strategies is an excellent way to foster resilience in candidates, build confidence and for them to feel in control of the application process.
  7. Create a list of questions that will help candidate select appropriate colleges. Questions should be self-reflective and may include:
    • How do I learn best?
    • What level of support do I require?
    • What assisted technology will be beneficial in meeting my individual needs?
  8. Identify the culture of the college community that is the best match for your candidate. Ask:
    • Do I want a traditional or non-traditional environment?
    • What are the activities, clubs and sports?
    • Check out weekend life
    • Look into religious affiliations
    • What about athletic opportunities
    • What academic support is available
    • Look into counseling options
    • Examine use of assisted technology
    • Consider community service opportunities
  9. The college essay is often a source of contention between parents and their LD children. As parents, read your child’s college essay for spelling and grammar errors alone. Let the authentic voice of the applicant emerge. Use phrases such as, “Did you consider mentioning A, B or C? I think that a college may want to know that about you,” as Merilee Jones states in her book, Less Stress, More Success. She advises to, “Simply point out the positive; don’t attempt to package the candidate into a product you hope the college will buy.”
  10. Have your LD students take psychoeducational and neuropsychological tests in their senior year after the college application process is completed. This will allow them to have accommodations and interventions for the first three years of college and they will not have to juggle these tests while taking the SAT’s and or ACT’s.

Understanding the individual needs of the LD candidate is essential in determining the appropriate college and forging solid matches for LD students. Your children’s social-emotional wellbeing is contingent upon this research as well as the opportunity for academic and personal success.

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