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College Counseling at TNCS

Posted by TNCS on Feb 21, 2017

In many ways college counseling at a school for dyslexic students is exactly like college counseling anywhere else. Students and parents are anxious, expectations and realities don’t always align, and the stakes are high. But in many ways college counseling at our school is unique. Dyslexia is a life-long, permanent condition. No matter how much a student’s skills have improved – and we see some fairly incredible progress – that student will always have a learning difference. Some students may need a college with a full-featured LD support program, others will be fine at a school where reasonable accommodations are available, and others just need a school where common sense prevails.

We are a college prep school, and so from the time a student enters high school until the time he or she graduates, we are careful to develop a course schedule that will make college attendance a viable option. That means a heavy dose of college preparatory English, math, history, and science each year. They will read literary classics, learn how to write a formal research paper, and how to balance a chemical equation. A student’s schedule also leaves room for some elective courses in the arts and/or technology. Foreign language is not part of our regular curriculum because for the vast majority of our students learning the rules for reading, writing, and spelling a foreign language when they have yet to master English reading, writing, and spelling, seems counter-productive. In our experience, most colleges are willing to waive published foreign language admissions requirements for students with documented learning differences who come from a school that doesn’t offer foreign language. Some colleges don’t require foreign language to graduate, but many others do. Those with language requirements sometimes are indeed firm about the issue, while others will provide options for substitutions – courses in foreign cultures, study abroad experiences, and the like. We find that math is actually a bigger stumbling block in college admissions than foreign language. Many of our students have difficulties in math that are every bit as significant – sometimes more so – than their difficulties in reading, and our students’ SAT Reading/Writing scores are often stronger than their SAT Math scores.

Part of the preparation for college takes place in a required elective during junior year. Students partake in a semester-long course that includes SAT practice and preparation and key parts of the college application process. Students learn how to use tools like the college search engine on the College Board website to explore options and narrow their list of colleges. They begin filling out the Common Application and practice answering college essay questions. We compare potential college accommodations with what TNCS provides, and examine the application process for those accommodations. We look at all parts of college applications, including potential interviews.

The college search can be stressful and exciting, so TNCS works to support the process by meeting with families to discuss possible college options, helping students develop independent skills in junior seminar, and teaching them to advocate for themselves throughout their time at TNCS.

By Gita Morris and Carolyn Latta