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college admissions

Writing the College Essay

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Tuesday, June 20, 2017 Byline:  By Suzanne Crossman

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

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"Summer is a great time for students to begin the essay-writing process, when they aren't juggling academics, extracurriculars, and college applications."

Writing the college essay is a demanding and often overwhelming task for students. Summer is a great time for students to begin the essay-writing process, when they aren't juggling academics, extracurriculars, and college applications. Parents can help guide students through this process by providing some direct instruction.

What is the purpose of the essay?

  • Give students a chance to share their story
  • Allow colleges to get to know a student beyond the numbers of SATs and GPA

If the student has a learning disability should they write about it?

Students are not required to disclose their learning disability in their college application. However, for many students their learning disability is a significant part of their story. If students want to write about their educational journey, support them in this process. Encourage students to focus on what they have learned about themselves and the tools they have gained to help them succeed in the future. Facing and persevering with a learning disability demonstrates a level of resilience that colleges want to see.

What are the parameters of the essay?

The Common Application essay is the most widely used by students. This essay must be at least 350 words but no more than 650. Be sure to look at the Common Application essay prompts. In 2017, an "essay of your choice" has been added so there is flexibility on what a student can write.

How can I help my student get started?

A great activity will to be read some sample essays and critique them.

    • Discuss what works and what does not work.
    • How did the writer introduce the essay?
    • What anecdotes were used?
    • How did the anecdote connect to the theme of the essay?
    • How did the writer show versus tell?
    • What did you learn about the writer?

The following websites offer a variety of sample essays. Each site includes critiques from admissions professionals. Select a few of these to review prior to writing.

Some general suggestions for writing the essay

    • Think about the story you want to share with colleges. You can’t share your entire life story, so narrow your focus.
    • Find an opening that works well.  
    • Include one detailed personal anecdote and connect that to your larger theme.  
    • Be authentic, be honest, be yourself...you don’t have to be perfect!
    • Unlike a formal academic essay, this is one of those times that you can have more flexibility with the structure.
    • Unlike a research paper, you can use “I.”  This is a personal essay.
    • Plan to write at least four drafts of the essay.
    • While length will be important, don’t focus too much on that during the draft phase. Get your ideas down. It is easier to shorten a long essay than to expand a short one!
    • Proofread, proofread, proofread!
    • Once you have proofread your essay, put it aside for a few weeks and then come back to it with fresh eyes. You will see changes you want to make that don’t appear when you look at it every day.
    • This should NOT be a narrative of your résumé. You will have other places to share that information. 

The Process

Step 1: Review the prompts

  • Think about them. Make sure you understand what they are asking. Talk about them.  

Step 2:  Do some free-writing

  • Try writing on several of the prompts and journal your ideas. See what comes to mind. Think about what topics you'd like to write about.

Step 3:  Select the prompt and outline your ideas.   

  • Decide what your theme will be.
  • Think about one specific anecdote/story you can use to highlight your theme.

Step 4: Write a first draft

Step 5: First proof

  • Focus on structure
    • Does your essay respond to the prompt?
    • Is there a clear theme that you communicate?
    • Do you have a strong introduction and conclusion?
    • Do you have appropriate transitions?
    • Do your paragraphs support your theme?
    • Do you have examples?
    • Did you show and not tell?
    • Is the tone appropriate to the setting?

Step 6: Second draft/proof

  • Focus on paragraphs
    • Is there any repetition or extraneous details that need to be eliminated?
    • Are your sentences strong and specific?
    • Do you include detail?

Step 7 Third draft/proof

  • Focus on sentences
    • Is the word choice appropriate?
    • Is the language strong?
    • Do you use a variety of sentences?
    • Are the sentences complete?

Step 8: Final Draft and Proof

  • Focus on grammar, spelling and punctuation
    • Double check word count (no more than 650!)
    • Double check spelling. DO NOT rely solely on spell check
    • Read the essay backwards to check sentence structure

 

​About the Author:

Suzanne Crossman

​ Suzanne Crossman is head of the Guidance Department at Landmark School.

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Tags:  college admissions college essay education learning disability

Making the Most of Your Summer

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Tuesday, May 16, 2017 Byline:  By Kerri Coen

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities. 

girl and mom working

Tips for Rising Seniors & Their Parents

Rising seniors will be busy this fall exploring many different post-secondary options. Students and parents can work together over the summer to prepare for this process—and make it less stressful once school starts. Take a look at these tips that will give your student a jump-start on post-graduation planning.

"Post-secondary education and transition should be a conversation, but not the only conversation!"

 

Set aside time to talk:

  • Make a plan to talk more in depth about the post-secondary planning process each week to make sure everyone is on the same page. Try to avoid discussing the topic up on a daily basis. Post-secondary education and transition should be a conversation, but not the only conversation!
  • Talk openly about your student’s interests, wants, and needs after high school. 

Set parameters that will help narrow the search:

  • ​​​​Is there a distance that the student and family are comfortable with?
  • Does the student prefer an urban, suburban, or rural environment?
  • How will school be financed? Does this influence the options?

Visit a variety of schools (size, geography):

  • Together, come up with a list of questions that are important for the student.
  • Make sure to visit the office of disability services. Most likely, this will not be a stop on the official tour. Students should arrange to visit or set up a separate meeting with the office.

Encourage your student to work on a draft of a personal essay if they have not yet started one:

  • Look at the Common Application prompts and see what one seems to fit. Try to return to school with a draft done so that you can begin the editing process.

Decide if ACT or SAT prep is right for the summer:

  • Are you applying to mostly test-optional schools?
  • Will test prep get in the way of other important opportunities?
  • Khan Academy is a great online resource that you can use for test prep on your own time.

Think about scheduling cognitive and achievement testing:

  • This needs to be done within three years of post-secondary enrollment in order for students to get accommodations in higher education.

Students should reach out to non-school personnel to ask for letters of recommendations. 

  • Summer Program teacher or a former supervisor are options. The letters will be easier to get now as opposed to waiting until the fall.

Make sure to have a summer activity:

  • Whether it's taking an art class, playing a sport, working, or traveling, students should spend some of their time in an activity that allows them to gain more independence and real-world experience.

Support your students through the process, but let them take the driver's seat.  This is great practice for the transition from high school to post-secondary education.

The world of college admissions

Looking to make your application stand out in a creative way? Check out Zeemee. Students can create their own personal profiles with pictures, videos, and bios. Some colleges will allow students to turn in their profiles with their applications.  

Scholarships

Check out Raise Me: www.raise.me. Students can earn micro-scholarships to certain schools based on their everyday activities. These are optional components to applying to schools and are not for everyone.  If students want to pursue these options it will be up to them to manage them. For more resources, please check out Landmark School’s Office of Guidance and Transition’s page on the Landmark website.

 

About the Author:

kerri coen

Kerri Coen is a guidance counselor at Landmark High School.

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Tags:  college admissions college advice college readiness education transition to college

Tips to Help You Make Your Final College Decision

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

college decision making lists

You've been accepted to several schools. The next step is deciding which to attend. Use these tips and suggestions to help you make the final decision. Download this worksheet to keep track of the main features of the schools you are considering.

Compare Support Programs

CollegePrep_Comparison
Download the College Comparison worksheet.
  • Make a list of the supports and accommodations that are essential for your success. Decide which school provides you with the best set of services.
  • Contact the support faculty at your top two or three schools. Evaluate your ability to develop a positive working relationship with the support staff.
  • Talk to students at the schools who currently access the support.

Compare Financial Aid Packages

  • Examine the award packages that you were given from each school.
  • Talk to your parents to discuss which is the best package for your family.

Tap into Alumni

  • Contact alumni you know who have attended schools on your list and ask about their transition.
  • If you need help contacting alumni, ask your Guidance Office to facilitate this process for you.

Attend Accepted Student Days

  • Select your top two or three school and attend accepted students events.
  • Visit classes and talk with students.
  • Try to explore the school “off the beaten path.”
  • Pay attention to the life of the campus…read posters and announcements, go to sporting events, visit on a weekend to get a sense of campus life.
  • Stay overnight and visit classes if at all possible.

Examine Major and Requirements

  • Spend some time getting a detailed look at the requirements for your intended major.
  • Is there a need to seek a foreign language waiver or substitution? Begin that discussion now. (This may not be possible for all majors so find that out prior to enrolling!)
  • Compare courses and opportunities for internships.
  • Compare career placement statistics.

Consider Family and Extra-Curricular Options

  • Think about how frequently you will be able to travel home.
  • Compare the ease of travel to each of the various campus (how close to airports, train stations, etc.).
  • Compare the extra-curricular opportunities at each school.

Seek Input from Teachers

  • While teachers and parents can’t make the decision for you, it is wise to sit with them to seek their opinion.
  • Your academic advisers, guidance counselor, and other teachers can give you some good points to consider as you evaluate your options.

Trust Your Gut

  • If you visit a school and “something” does not feel right…trust that instinct.

Make a Pro/Con List

  • It helps to put your thoughts in writing.
  • Your guidance counselor will help you with this process as well.

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Tags:  college college accommodations college admissions college advice

Academic Support Services at the College Level for Students with Learning Disabilities

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, June 29, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

college-services student teacher

Most colleges have a support service office to help students with learning disabilities access the resources they need to succeed. The services are outlined below.

Level of Support

Description

Basic Accommodations and Services

  • Provides accommodations as required under ADA and Section 504.
  • Students must disclose and provide documentation.
  • Accommodations may include:
    • Extended time on tests
    • Note takers
    • Priority registration
    • Assistive technology
    • Reduced course load
  • Access to writing center provided for all students.

Coordinated Services

  • Provides all accommodations as required by law.
  • Students must disclose and provide documentation.
  • Specialized instruction in study skills and organizational skills may be available.
  • Might offer some content tutorial support with a upperclassman or graduate student.
  • Often have a learning center with professional with specific experience teaching students with LD.

Intensive Support Services and Support Programs

  • Students must apply to specific support program as well as to the college (coordinated admissions).
  • Specific support sessions are built into the student’s schedule.
  • May have an summer program to facilitate the transition to college.
  • Students pay tuition for classes and for participate in the program.
  • Program has specific staff specializing in LBLD.

Check out Landmark School’s Transition and Guidance page to learn more about the transition to college and other post-secondary options.

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Tags:  college college accommodations college admissions college advice college essay learning disabilities learning disability transition to college

Academic Expectations & Self Advocacy: High School vs College

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Thursday, June 28, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

support-services

Making the leap from high school to college can be overwhelming for students. The transition can be easier if they know what to expect in college. This table outlines what is expected of students in high school and college in regard to academics and self-advocacy.

High School College
Most of the learning happens in the class. Homework supports the class experience. Most of the learning happens outside the class. Class work supports the outside learning experience.
Parents serve as advocates for students and work with teachers directly. Students must advocate for themselves.
Faculty and families establish study hall times and locations. Students must plan their own study times.
Homework is given on a daily basis. Students are given a syllabus with homework and assignments listed for the semester.
Teachers seek out students who need additional support and help. Students must find professors during office hours to get extra help and support.
Readings are discussed and reviewed in class. Professors assume students complete the reading and will ask any questions they have.
Teachers work to engage students in class discussion. Professors give opportunities for discussion but do not always prompt students who are reluctant to participate.
Teachers will often review information prior to a test. Professors expect students to review on their own and will teach until the day before a test.

Check out Landmark School's Transition and Guidance page to learn more about the transition to college and other post-secondary options.

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Tags:  Accommodations college admissions college advice self-advocacy

Tips for a Successful College Interview

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, July 6, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

college-interview

An interview is an opportunity for a school to get to know you. It is also an important opportunity for you to understand and learn about the institution you are interviewing with. You should be actively involved in the interview in order to evaluate if the school is a good match.

Before the Interview

  • Do your research. Find out about the institution.
  • Prepare questions. Make sure you have questions that demonstrate you have done your research and ask for clarification or depth.  Don’t ask questions about readily accessible information.
  • Conduct a practice interview with a parent, teacher, or friend.
  • Check to make sure you know the location of the interview and the name of the person who will be conducting the interview.
  • Double check the time to be sure your arrive on time.
  • Dress in neat, appropriate clothing.
  • Be sure to turn off all electronics.

During the Interview

  • Leave parents in waiting room. They will have time to ask questions, but this is your interview.
  • Ask your questions. This is your opportunity to get information.
  • Make good eye contact.
  • Avoid giving one-word responses to questions. Elaborate on your answers. Give examples.
  • Relax and be yourself.
  • Shake hands and thank the person for his/her time.

After the Interview

  • Write a thank you note to the person who interviewed you within one week.
  • Record notes on your impressions of the school/workplace.
  • Update your list of questions to ask and expect.
college interview worksheet
Download the College Interview Questions sheet.

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Comparison of the SAT and ACT

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, June 22, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

sat-act

Most colleges accept both SAT and ACT test scores. Use this comparison of the two tests to decide which is best for you or your student.

  SAT I ACT
General Information
  • Test length: three hours (plus 50 minutes for optional essay)
  • Students can apply for and be granted up to 100% extended time
  • Two required sections (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math)
  • One optional section (essay)
  • Test length: three hours, 25 minutes
  • Students can apply for and be granted up to 50% extended time
  • Four required sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science)
  • Optional and recommended writing test.
Scores
  • Score in each subject area can range from 200–800
  • Total score range is from 400–1,600
  • Score of 6–24 for essay
  • Score of 1–36 for each test section
  • Composite score of 1–36 based on average score of the four test sections
Incorrect Answer
  • No deduction for incorrect answers
  • No deduction for incorrect answers
Content
  • Evidence Based-Reading and Writing
  • Math: Arithmetic Through Trigonometry (there is a "no calculator" section)
  • Reading Comprehension
  • English
  • Math: Arithmetic Through Trigonometry
  • Science
  • Optional Essay
Essay
  • Optional
  • Last section of the test
  • Scored on Reading, Analysis, and Writing
  • Scored on a scale of 2–8 on each of these areas
  • Optional
  • Final section of the test
  • Not included in composite score
  • Topic is generally important to high school students
Test Dates

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Check out Landmark School's Transition and Guidance page to learn more about the transition to college and other post-secondary options.

Tags:  ACT college admissions college advice SAT standardized testing transition to college

Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, June 22, 2018

books college university

Applying to college can be a stressful, time-consuming journey for students and their families that requires travel, hours of research and essay writing, gathering transcripts, recommendations, and other documentation, and filling out forms and applications—lots of them. Students with learning disabilities (LD) face the added challenge of finding a school that accommodates their needs with appropriate services and supports and fulfills other criteria, such as location, academic programs, and size.

This series offers information on what services are available on campuses for students with LD and how to access them, tips on writing the college essay and interviewing, printable worksheets to organize the schools students are considering, and information about testing.

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Tags:  college college accommodations college admissions college advice college essay learning disabilities learning disability transition to college

Tips for a Successful College Interview

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, July 6, 2018

An interview is an opportunity for a school to get to know you. It is also an important opportunity for you to understand and learn about the institution you are interviewing with. You should be actively involved in the interview in order to evaluate if the school is a good match.

Before the Interview

  • Do your research. Find out about the institution.
  • Prepare questions. Make sure you have questions that demonstrate you have done your research and ask for clarification or depth.  Don’t ask questions about readily accessible information.
  • Conduct a practice interview with a parent, teacher, or friend.
  • Check to make sure you know the location of the interview and the name of the person who will be conducting the interview.
  • Double check the time to be sure your arrive on time.
  • Dress in neat, appropriate clothing.
  • Be sure to turn off all electronics.

During the Interview

  • Leave parents in waiting room. They will have time to ask questions, but this is your interview.
  • Ask your questions. This is your opportunity to get information.
  • Make good eye contact.
  • Avoid giving one-word responses to questions. Elaborate on your answers. Give examples.
  • Relax and be yourself.
  • Shake hands and thank the person for his/her time.

After the Interview

  • Write a thank you note to the person who interviewed you within one week.
  • Record notes on your impressions of the school/workplace.
  • Update your list of questions to ask and expect.
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