“How do I know if my child is ready for college?” This is one of the most popular questions by high school parents. The second most asked question is “Are there disability friendly colleges?” This article will try to answer BOTH questions.
If your child is on a 504 or IEP in high school they can absolutely be college-ready by the time they receive their college acceptance letter and they walk across the stage at graduation.
If your student utilizes accommodations in high school, colleges and universities also provide accommodations so the transition can be pretty seamless. Can be are the important words.
More important than your student’s accommodations - their self-awareness and ability to advocate for their accommodations in college will be a determining factor in their college success.
IMPORTANT QUESTION 1:
When parents ask me “Is my child ready for college?”
I reply “Do they receive a 504 / IEP in high school, and if so, do they know what’s in it?”
If the answer to that question is no, than I don’t believe their student is college-ready.
Students can be college-bound, but without knowledge of what is in their 504 / IEP they are not aware of the accommodations that are currently being provided to them. Lacking this knowledge, students with learning, physical or mental health challenges are simply not ready to advocate for their academic and residential needs within the current college system.
Some may disagree and argue that students are not defined by their 504/IEP and do not need to know the details in these support plans.
I agree 100% that students are more than their diagnosis.
But if a student is receiving an accommodation that allows them to be successful in high school, the student is relying on a high school support system that will not continue in college. But.....if students can identify and articulate the high school support systems that help them to be successful, they are ready to navigate the new terrain of college more successfully.
IMPORTANT QUESTION 2
In college, I have found that a student’s intelligence is not necessarily the primary factor that determines their likelihood of success. Rather, a student's ability to navigate the new systems of college including time management, organization, online technology learning management systems, scheduling 4 college courses, planning and prioritizing homework assignments, requesting accommodations, etc. are crucial skills for success.
None of the tasks above is measured in a standard IQ test. But all of these tasks rely on students' executive functioning skills and self-advocacy.
Having a conversation about your student's executive functioning skills is a great place to start when determining your student’s college readiness. I discuss how to improve executive functioning skills in many of my blog posts.
If I’m not sure if my student is ready, is there a list of disability friendly colleges?
My short answer to this question is no. There are colleges that have a history of offering comprehensive support services to students with documented disabilities. But I often hesitate to list these schools for two reasons.
I Hesitate to Give a List Because...
First, not every college with comprehensive support services will be a good fit for students who aren’t college ready. Determining your student’s EF skills and ability to self-advocate should be the first consideration in determining a college path. A student with significantly weak EF skills will not be successful in any college regardless of support because even the most supportive college is still a college and requires students to manage their own schedule, submit homework assignments and manage their free time in order to submit assignments.
No college will offer 24/7 support.
Not even historically supportive colleges.
In addition, for every story I’ve heard about a student with learning disabilities who was successful at a ‘supportive school’ I’ve heard another family’s story about their student’s journey at the same school - but the student's experience was not necessarily successful and ultimately the college wasn't a right fit for their student.
The second reason I hesitate to give a list of colleges is...
There are innovative and transformational programs that are being started every year at colleges and universities that may not be included on the ‘traditionally supportive’ list I mentioned above. There are great transition programs within school districts that are also linked to local community colleges. Universities are also designing programs for students with autism and recognizing that this population is increasingly successful in college with specific residential and social supports.
Although I do not recommend any of the colleges below specifically, I encourage you to contact each school and speak to the Admissions Department as well as the director of the Disability Support / Accessibility Office.
The colleges that are historically supportive include: Landmark College, Beacon College, Lynn University, Mitchell College, Dean College, Curry College and Adelphi University Bridges program. Again, I do not recommend these programs over others but know that these institutions have been at the top of the list of supportive colleges for the last 15 years.
Please email me, email@example.com, if you would like to have a conversation about your student’s specific educational experience or ask a question about their paths after high school.