Rachel B. Sobel, Ph.D.
College counselor and educator
For high school sophomores and juniors, Spring Break is often synonymous with college visits. Students with learning and other disabilities must assess not only the academic and social aspects of a college; they must also determine if a college can meet their unique needs related to their disabilities. Here are some ideas to consider when embarking on this journey.
There are numerous ways to gather information about a college. You can read about the college statistics (how many students attend from what parts of the country, the average test scores and GPA of the current freshmen class, most popular majors/programs, ongoing research opportunities, etc.). You can even take a virtual campus tour. But nothing can beat an actual visit in helping you determine if a school is a good fit for you. And springtime isn’t the only time to visit; summertime visits are equally valuable. While the weather and volume of students may be different, you’re still able to get a clear sense of the campus and campus life.
Tips for a successful college visit:
• You’re on a fact-finding mission, so get the facts! Are you comfortable in this type of community (urban/suburban/rural)? Is this campus too big/small? Does this campus “feel” right? (Often, you’ll know when you’re on a campus if it is right for you or not.)
• Let colleges know that you’re interested in visiting them. For many college tours and information sessions, you don’t need an appointment. However, colleges track your interest, so be sure to sign in with the admissions receptionist to let them know of your visit.
• After the tour, spend some time in the campus center (or equivalent) to get an unvarnished view of the college. Grab a soda with some students who are milling around and ask them about their experiences at the college.
• For students with LD/ADHD/ASD: Make an appointment to meet with a representative from the Disability Support Services Office (or equivalent) to determine if the college can provide the level of support you need to be successful.
• When you’re back in the car, write down your initial reaction to the school. Ask yourself, “Do I want to come back here tomorrow?” “Could I see myself spending four years here?” Finally, “Is this college worth keeping on my college list or do I hit the delete key?”
Rachel B. Sobel is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Ph.D. in Counselor Education. She has more than 30 years of experience working with adolescents and their families as a psychotherapist, college counselor and educator. Rachel is the founder of College Possibilities, an educational consulting firm specializing in students with learning disabilities that serves students in the areas of (but not limited to) Philadelphia, the Main Line, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks and Delaware counties as well as Southern New Jersey. For more information, visit http://www.collegepossibilities.com.