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The College Non-Negotiable

Posted April 06, 2021 in Articles

The College Non-Negotiable

Author: Domenic Iorillo, College & Career Planning

Graduation is fast approaching and high school seniors everywhere are finding themselves face-to-face with the last major decision they’ll make before graduation—which school comes next? Together with their parents, they’ve been on what seems like a never ending cycle of adding and crossing off options on their college list, all while researching, visiting, and revisiting campuses.

These last steps in the decision-making process are important for all seniors. But for students with learning differences, a little extra due diligence makes all the difference in finding happiness, independence, and success in college. I’d like to share some of the advice I pass on to our Lawrence families:

This is a great time to take stock of your non-negotiables. Features like a school’s size, setting, cost, and proximity to home, all factor in. However, the most important non-negotiable you must consider is whether your child’s college or university of choice offers the appropriate level of academic support.

All colleges must legally adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This ensures students with a diagnosed learning difference or past learning plan is offered accommodations in the classroom. However, beyond the approval and facilitation of these accommodations, there can be drastic differences in the amount of support offered.

As you research, you’ll find you can split colleges into two categories, those that offer formalized academic support programs and those that don’t. Support programs are generally fee-based and offer academic coaching, executive function assistance, and a structured support team to ensure learners have all the accommodations, tools, and resources they need to find success. Some even include a social component. These programs are comparable to the oversight and guidance Lawrence students are provided in our Learning Resource Center. While some students may not require a comprehensive support program, it’s important to ask the right questions and fully understand what support is available.

My advice is to set up meetings with each school’s office of accessibility services before you make a decision. Ask questions about their offerings. These interviews are integral to understanding the level of support at any school, and they are crucial when speaking with schools that do not offer a formal support program.

Secondly, find time to talk with your child about their strengths and challenges, as well as their level of self advocacy. Self awareness and a willingness to access the support they need is key. I also encourage you to also ask their high school teachers what support they think will be most helpful moving forward.

It may take a little extra work, but students with learning differences can be very successful in college and beyond. Research the programs, ask your questions, and guide your child to make the choice that best suits their goals and learning needs. And once your senior’s mind is made up, take some time to celebrate together!

The Office of College and Career Planning at Lawrence School guides students on post-secondary placement. Click here to read more about the process.

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