The Tarnow Center College Transition Program by Sophia K. Havasy, Ph.D.

Continuing education after high school is imperative for your young person whether through college or vocational training and certifications. In the current economy, parents, more than ever, will need to factor in return on investment when making decisions about their children's education. No longer can a family afford to risk losing $30,000 or more by sending a child who is not ready to be successful away to college. College dropout rates are highest the freshman year. For at-risk young adults -- a group that includes young people with histories of ADHD, learning disabilities, substance abuse, and/or emotional disorders -- we recommend that parents consider the Tarnow Center College Transition Program. This structured support system utilizes Tarnow Center resources and local colleges and universities. It provides at-risk young adults a structured transition to independence. The student stays on track with enhanced potential for success and parents can feel more comfortable that a year's tuition will not be wasted on a child ready to tackle college but not quite ready to do so on their own. The program provides your young adult with time to mature and the skills to manage their lives.

Research on college graduation rates suggests that goodness of fit between the student and the program, academic selfconfidence, and time management and persistence in one's efforts towards a goal are the key ingredients of successful college completion. A poor fit can result from sending the young adult to the school they want that may not be the one that they need. Large lecture classes can be quite difficult for someone with an auditory processing disorder or an attention deficit disorder. Young people who have not developed the skills to manage their time, to persist in their goals, or to go the extra mile to find the right tutor or talk to the teacher are particularly vulnerable to floundering after they leave home. High school may not have provided the proving ground that you hoped for in order to feel confident to send your student away to school. A year of structured transition can provide the bridge between high school and a successful independent college.

The College Transition Program is similar to the SALT program at the University of Arizona and the TECHniqes program at Texas Tech. To be accepted into these support programs the student has to be accepted in the university and demonstrate a statistically significant learning need based on psychoeducational testing. The student agrees to tutoring and to meet with the counselor weekly. Attendance at scheduled appointments is tracked. Parents can learn, with the students permission, whether or not the student attends her appointments.

In the Tarnow Center College Transition Program, we plan to do more. We have found that our students often need more hands-on assistance and accountability. When the parents try to function in this coaching role at the college level, the young people tend to be very resistant and take it as intrusive and as a vote of no conf idence. The young person will say, "I'm in college. Let me handle it." The truth is these students have good intentions but often lack the skills to "handle it."

Students participating in the Tarnow Center College Transition Program will enroll in a local college or university. They can choose to live at home, on campus or in independent housing. Through the Program, they will have access to tutors and will participate in group sessions to reinforce selfmanagement skills around independent education. Their progress will be monitored and the program will be tailored to a student's individual situation and needs. Each participating student and family will develop a contract with behavioral markers so a student can understand and work towards a situation of greater independence. Some students can use the transition year to achieve the life and study skills necessary to go off to college away from home. Others may choose to utilize the program throughout their university career, accomplishing their educational goals within the context of a structured support environment.

Skills the program will focus on:

  • Improve self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses as a learner and as a self-manager. 
  • How to become one's own advocate. Knowing what you need, who to speak to, and what considerations to request. 
  • How to create allies wherever you are and why you would want to. 
  • Goal-setting and making plans to reach the goals. 
  • Time management or how to move beyond wishful thinking and good intentions. 
  • Sustaining motivation.

In the College Transition Program, we will monitor attendance at tutoring and also to what degree the student is prepared, and making good use of the services. Depending upon which school the student attends, we will work with academic advisors to monitor academic functioning. When the student agrees to work with us, that student is creating allies for success.

Beginning the summer after high school graduation, the young person will meet with clinicians and learning specialists skilled in addressing the needs of this population. Students who have gone away to school, failed, and are now receptive to help are also eligible. Dr. Havasy calls them "complicated launchings". During each semester, we will meet with the young adults in groups and individually to assist them to define their goals, teach them to persist and sustain motivation, and help them to better understand what they require to optimize the likelihood of their own success.

We will work with the families to write contracts that define the self-management skills and the behavioral markers that demonstrate competence so that everyone knows what is necessary to have in place in order to leave home with financial support. This is an opportunity to do it right. If, as a parent, you know that your young adult is not ready to go away to school and be successful, then this is a program you should consider.

Contact Sophia K. Havasy, Ph.D. to get started with planning for the College Transition Program.

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