Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

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College Essay Time Management for LD Students

college essay time management for LD studentsSmart Kids with Learning Disabilities just published an article in their newsletter about time management for kids with LD.

While it’s not specifically about writing college application essays, a lot of the same advice applies—such as breaking down tasks down into manageable pieces, making tasks achievable and keeping track of time. I’ve also found that if students are taking medication for a condition that affects learning (such as ADHD), that it’s helpful if they’re on the medication when they sit down to write—it can make the process more successful.

Enjoy the article.


sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. She is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee. First Impressions tutors are award-winning writers and authors who teach students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. We work with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype, FaceTime and email. Visit our website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.









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Helping Students with Learning Differences Transition to College: A Mom’s 10 Tips

Helping Students with Learning Differences Transition to College Mom's 10 TipsRecently, I participated in a college prep panel at Eagle Hill School in Greenwich, Connecticut, a school that educates children with language-based learning disabilities. My role on the panel was to discuss successful college essay writing techniques for students with learning differences.

Liz Evans was also a panelist. Liz is the mom of six children, five with learning differences. During the evening Liz shared her anxieties and hopes about the college process, as well as some of her experiences with her kids, (some of whom succeeded  and some who did not) in the transition from high school to college.

She gave Ten Tips for Parents of LD Students Who Are About to Embark on a College Search. Liz graciously agreed to let me reprint her comments here:

My comments are totally anecdotal. I’m not a professional, I’m a mom of six kids, five of whom have diagnosed learning differences.

As background, we have six children. Two have graduated from college and are gainfully employed. Two are freshmen in college: one who panicked first semester, left and is now enrolled at a different university and doing well; the other experiencing success from day one.

One never made the transition to college or any post high school program. One floundered in traditional college and became successful in community college…although that is currently on hold.

Each case was unique.

The kinds and amounts of support required were different for each. Each child’s understanding of his or her needs was unique.

Here is What We Learned From Our Kids’ Experiences:

1. First, it goes without saying, but the support program at the colleges our children attend are extremely important.

Before they begin the search process make sure the student is familiar with the recommendations that have been developed from their educational evaluations. Then, when the student interviews with the school’s support program, they should go over each item on the list with the school and write down how they will access that support.

As a parent, I would independently research the support programs at the schools your child is considering. I would allow your student to interview with the support programs and get a feel for their help, but independently from their interviews I would discuss with the school what you see as important support tactics for your child. For example, it is helpful to know whether the school will talk to you if things are not going well academically for your child. Can your child sign a waiver allowing them to speak with you?

Ask probing questions of the support program. Don’t take anything for granted:

  • How many staff members for how many students?
  • How are accommodations explained to professors?
  • Is tutoring and note taking part of the support program or available to anyone? That’s important, because if tutoring is available to anyone, there is often a long lead time to get an appointment.
  • Is it professional or peer tutoring?
  • If tests are to be taken at a different location, what is the process for making those arrangements?
  • Will your child have one main contact or just the office at large?

2. Second, we found that our kids who had internalized their need for support were most successful. Their parents, their high school teachers and counselors, and their educational consultants can try to convince students of their need for support, but they have to believe it and be willing to make accepting that support a high priority.

3. Those students who had grappled with failure were more successful. (They weren’t dejected by the challenges college presented.) One of our kids failed two or three classes, but she kept on going. I believe the ability for a student to allow him or herself to be vulnerable correlates with success. Having a soft landing for those difficult blows helps, however…and that is where a support system that your child will utilize is important.

4. If your student is coming from a high school that caters to students with learning disabilities, they need to be ready for the reality that their roommates and friends will spend much less time on their work and nevertheless be successful.

5. Those students who had a strong work ethic were most successful.

6. Students have to believe that they can be successful. Our son, who was enrolled for all of two months at Rochester Institute of Technology, never saw himself as being able to be successful. He wasn’t ready for college emotionally.

7. Again, this is just in my personal experience, but our kids who chose schools that were a little lower on the competitive scale than others they were accepted to, did better.

8. From my vantage point as a parent, if your kids are transitioning from a supportive, specialized LD program, they may not be  in a good position to realize that the teaching methods and support they are accustomed to is not typical. So that while they may recognize they qualify for extra help, it still can be a wake up call when the class instructional techniques are very different from the techniques that have been used in their LD high school.

9. Visit more than once. Revisit the school’s support program. Spend the night, if possible.

10. If the school your child decides to attend offers a summer program, I highly recommend taking advantage of that opportunity. We didn’t encourage our son, who attended The University of Vermont, to do that. The result was that he found the transition from a small high school to a big university overwhelming and never got past it.

I’m sure this is most likely self intuitive for most of you.  It can be such an exciting time that you share with your kind of adult child. They need to feel in control, but recognize that parents have a role in the process.

Related Posts:
Should I Disclose a Learning Difference in My College Essay?
Questions to Ask About College Services for Learning Differences


Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. She is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee. First Impressions tutors are award-winning writers and authors. We teach students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. We work with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit our website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

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Should I Disclose a Learning Difference in My College Essay?

Guest blogger: Joanna NovinsShould I disclose a learning difference in my college essay?

To Disclose or Not to Disclose?

As I a writer, I’ll admit, I’m a bit fixated on essays. So naturally, I wondered whether college application essays are the appropriate place for a student to disclose that he or she has learning differences.

When I asked, admissions officers and college disability professionals all gave me the same answer: it’s not necessary. Although, as one administrator noted, “A lot of students don’t disclose because they have decent grades, but if you’ve had a bad year, you should address it. Parents should call and shop around,” she said, adding, “I don’t want kids to come here and flounder.”

Colleges want to know that the students they admit will be able to work independently—which is why essays are so focused on learning about how students problem solve and how they’ve overcome personal challenges. They’re aware that LD students will be in need of some form of support, such as additional time taking tests or organizational strategies, so LD students also need to show that in addition to meeting this criteria, they’re resilient and know how to successfully self-advocate.

If you do decide to disclose in your application essays, consider the following:

  • A story about how you’ve learned to work with your disability or overcome prejudices could be a compelling Common Application essay.
  • An explanation of how your disability has affected your grades in a specific area of study might be worth addressing in a supplemental essay.
  • Whether you disclose in the Common Application essay or a supplemental essay, your focus should be on what you’ve learned from the experience about working more effectively.

Note: If you decide the essay isn’t the right place for you to disclose a learning difference but you want to address it, use the additional information portion of the Common Application. You don’t need to write an essay for this section; a well-written, straightforward paragraph or two will give the admissions committee the information it needs to fully understand your transcript and background.

For more information read the related post:
Questions to Ask About College Services for Learning Differences

Joanna NovinsJoanna Novins is a professional writer and analyst by training, but the challenges facing students with learning differences is a topic that is near and dear to her heart. She teaches writing to students with learning differences and is the proud parent of a smart, successful, and highly independent college student with a learning difference.  Joanna holds a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a bachelor’s degree with honors in history from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an independent writing consultant for First Impressions College Consulting, teaching college essay writing to students of all abilities.