Sunday, November 7, 2010

Focusing on College Issues

Yesterday's New York Times was a rich source of information for college bound students and their families.

An essay by Caren Osten Gerszberg, originally appearing in the Times Choice Blog, an ongoing feature dedicated to college admissions and financial aid, was included in the print edition along with comments from readers. Gerszberg wrote about the problems with the Common Application and the difficulty uploading essays and fitting them into the strict format and limits of the online forms. Her daughter had neglected to take all necessary steps to make sure her information was accepted by the Common Application and it went out to a college with part of her short essay missing. Commentators included the Director of Outreach of The Common Application, who noted that the difficulty could have been avoided by using the "preview" feature before pushing the "send" button. Both the essay and the comments provide important guidance to any student working on applications -- online or on paper -- this fall.

Even more informative was an entire special section of Sunday's paper -- which appears regularly several times a year -- called Education Life. This issue included a terrific piece by Abigail Sullivan Moore, titled Accommodations Angst which looked at an issue that we often encounter with the students with whom we work -- when and how to apply for accommodations, particularly extended time, on SAT and ACT exams. The article includes information from a number of experts in the field of education and disabilities, including our esteemed colleagues Matt Cohen, Esq. and Jo Anne Simon, Esq. Matt Cohen is the author of the excellent book, A Guide to Special Education Advocacy, from Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Jo Anne Simon is nationally recognized as an expert in disability discrimination in high stakes standardized testing and higher education. She was also a generous source of guidance for your blogger's new book, with Christina Bertsch, Life After High School: A Guide for Students with Disabilities and Their Families, which contains a complete explanation of the history and administration of the SAT and ACT tests and the laws governing the accommodation process.

Some of the issues covered in the article by Abigail Moore include differences between the College Board, which administers the SAT exam, and the ACT exam, both of which are accepted by virtually all colleges as part of their admissions process. The article notes something we find all the time in practice: students who have been diagnosed or first received accommodations only a year or two before first taking the SAT or ACT exams have a far more difficult time making their case to the testing companies.

It's prime time for applying to college. Most high school seniors have pretty much decided where to apply and are (or should be!) working on applications. Sophomores are watching their older classmates engage in the process of application preparation and juniors are thinking about ways to burnish their records and considering issues relating to standardized tests. Students with and without learning and attention difficulties should find the Education Life section of the Times helpful -- and will also find much information applicable to all students in your blogger's new book.

This is also a good time to remind our readers that consultations with Susan Yellin, Esq. to assist students with learning and other challenges to navigate the college process, are available at The Yellin Center. Contact Mrs. Yellin directly at or call our office at 646-775-6646.

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