While the biggest predictor of success in college is success in high school, “success” doesn’t mean your student must have achieved straight A’s. As all parents of students with learning differences know, LD students often have to work three or four times as hard as their non-LD peers to make similar grades. Even if your student has accumulated a B- or even a C+ average in high school, they could have academic success in the right college environment with appropriate learning support, as long as they are motivated. When college readiness gets a little murky is if your student has a C- average or below. Then you might consider a GAP year or other option after high school to increase their academic readiness. In general, you can think of college readiness as a student’s ability to hang out in the B category overall - not necessarily in every subject.
With every LD student, we know there are going to be academic challenges. That’s not the student’s fault. The trick is to find the places where your student has had success in high school - the “wins” - and build on them. You’ll want to ensure your student has had enough academic wins in high school to be ready for college.
Here are 6 types of “wins” that can indicate students are ready for the demands in college:
They are completing their homework and turning it in on time without parent or tutor reminders.
They are asking teachers for help when they don’t understand something (self-advocacy) - or, they have a workaround for asking a teacher for help, such as a tutor that they engage with, not mom or dad.
They are excited about one or more academic subjects or classes they’re taking or have taken.
They can read and write at grade level.
They can schedule their own appointments and show up on time without parental involvement.
Their grades are holding steady or trending upward while they’re taking the same level of coursework.
Some of these skills are easier to determine than others. It may be helpful to get an outside opinion from an expert who can give you an honest view of your student to help you evaluate college readiness. If you can pay for outside help it’s usually better because it’s easier to get an objective opinion. Here are some professionals to consult for help in determining your teen’s college readiness:
- School counselor: Just be aware that how helpful this person is can depend a lot on the school. Sometimes school counselors take the path of least resistance and underestimate the abilities of LD students.
- Learning specialist: if your student has a learning specialist who works closely with them on academic skills, the specialist will have an idea of how ready your student is for college. Hopefully, that person has been working with your student to strengthen these skills.
- Tutor: Checking in with your student’s tutor to see if your student’s self-advocacy and organizational skills have been progressing may be helpful to give you additional insight.
- Educational psychologist: Since many times you will be having your student retested in high school to qualify for accommodations during standardized testing and in college, it’s a great time to have a conversation with the educational psychologist about college readiness.
If ultimately you determine that your student isn’t quite ready for college, try not to worry. There are plenty of ways for your teen to build the necessary skills they need to be college-ready during a gap year.