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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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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

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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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Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

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

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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
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