Is Your Teenager "College Ready"?
When I "googled" the term "College Readiness", I came across several websites that spoke about the importance of being academically prepared for college. For example, the Texas College and Career Readiness website stressed the importance of content knowledge in English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. A paper by the Secretary of Education's Commission on the future of higher education discussed the responsibility of high schools to provide college-level coursework to prepare their students for the next step. Not surprisingly many parents also define college readiness in terms of their teenager's grades and high school grades scores on national tests.
These definitions may be adequate if college existed only in the classroom, but success in college requires many skills that cannot be measured in grades. Non-academic characteristics such as motivation, college expectations, social support and self-management skills are essential espe-cially when a student has been identified as Learning Disabled or diagnosed with ADHD. Students with diagnosed learning disabilities constitute nearly 6% of all school-age students between the ages of 13 and 16. These numbers do not account for students with undiagnosed learning disabilities. Current data reveal that within 2 years of graduating from high school, approximately 10% of students with disabilities have attended 2-year or community colleges and fewer than 6% have attended 4-year colleges. These numbers are much lower than the 50% of students in the general population that attend 2-year and 4-year colleges. More importantly, it is estimated that 50% of Learning Disabled students do not complete their degrees.
These numbers are very disappointing. As mental health professionals who take particular interest in helping those with learning disabilities, we at the Tarnow Center recognize that high school grades and SAT scores alone cannot measure college readiness. While academic content knowledge is an important aspect of college readiness, it is imperative that parents and students do not ignore writing skills, time-management, study skills, critical thinking abilities, and other self-management skills that are necessary to deal with the stress of being in college. The questions that we like to ask parents of high school students are:
- "Is your teenager able to examine ways in which college is different than high school?
- Is she able to re-examine her current study habits and time management skills and realize that college needs more effort and advance planning?
- Does he have realistic expectations for college?"
Personal characteristics also play a huge role in determining successful transition to college. Is your teenager confident, persistent, and selfdisciplined? Will he be able to persevere in the face of challenge because he believes in his ability to achieve his goal? Will she have the determination to create alternate plans if her first plan is unsuccessful?
Finally, for students with Learning Disabilities, awareness is a key component of college success. By this I mean awareness of one's rights and responsibilities regarding accommodations as outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ask yourself: Is your teenager knowledgeable about her personal strengths and weaknesses? Is he able to determine whether the available college accommodations fit his individual needs? Does she know when she needs help? Does he know how to ask for help? Does she know how to utilize the available resources? Does he wait until the last minute to use these services or resources? These are all questions that need to be addressed before students go off to a highly complex college environment.
Please take a moment to have your teenager answer the College Readiness Survey below. You may find that your perceptions of college readiness differ from your teenager's perceptions of college readiness. These questions are designed to be a first step in understanding and recognizing the core issues that affect a student's transition to college. These questions do not indicate pathology or predict a student's potential, but serve to give us a starting point.
The Launching Program at the Tarnow Center is designed for high school juniors and seniors as they prepare to transition to college. Whether your child has a learning difference, or just needs some guidance on his or her journey, the Launching Program offers information about what skills contribute to students' success in college and designs ways for them to attain these skills. In this program, we focus on identifying the student's strengths and weaknesses, enhancing their awareness about their learning styles and differences, teaching self-advocacy skills, and addressing college readiness factors that are essential for success. We believe in taking a comprehensive approach to postsecondary transition planning and will leave no stone unturned to ensure that we put you and your teenager on the path to success.
Dr. Desai brings to the Center expertise in Career Counseling and Testing.