Friday, July 9, 2010

College Road Trip

Many families of high school students spend at least part of their vacation doing what we here in New York call the I-95 Shuffle. Whether they head north, to Connecticut, Massachusetts, or elsewhere in New England, or go south through Philadelphia, Delaware, Maryland, D.C, and into Virginia and the Carolinas, Interstate Route 95 will take them to dozens of college campuses.

Some of these traveling families will have rising high school seniors, who will be submitting college applications this fall. Others will include students entering 11th grade, who have begun to think about where they want to apply but have some time before they have to start narrowing down their choices. In our new book, Life After High School: A Guide for Students with Disabilities and Their Families, my co-author Christina Bertsch and I recommend that families with even younger students take advantage of family vacations to visit and take a tour of a college campus on their vacation route. Sometimes these early visits can get students thinking about the kind of place that will be a good fit for them, and help focus their efforts during the rest of high school.

While it is always best to try to visit campuses while classes are in session, this is often not possible during the summer. While our "to do" list is not complete, it can help you get started with your own family's summer college road trip:
  • Make sure to call ahead to the admissions office to see if tours are available at the time you plan to visit.
  • Take the time to have a meal in the college cafeteria -- checking out both the food and ambiance.
  • Go to an information session (check ahead to see when these are scheduled) to learn what the college requires for admission -- and what it offers that will appeal to your son or daughter.
  • If your student has been receiving academic accommodations in high school for learning, attention, or other issues, make a point of scheduling a meeting with the Office of Disability Services (which can have different names at different places) and discussing whether your child might qualify for accommodations in college, what documentation he or she may need, and what kind of accommodations the college generally offers. Remember, having high school accommodations does not mean a student will always receive accommodations in college!
  • Students should keep a log of the schools they visit, noting their observations and impressions. Parents may want to do this too, so that months later when the family sits down to discuss applications, everyone can remember what they thought of a particular campus.

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